Beach Operations to Counties?
A proposed bill that would allow Jersey shore counties to take over beach operations from local communities if towns request it, isn't generating much support from either Republicans or Democrats.
During a special joint session of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee held in Toms River, freeholders from Ocean, Monmouth and Cape May counties as well as mayors from several shore towns spoke out against the proposed Senate bill.
Senate Committee Chair Bob Smith said counties would have to agree to have the services and shore towns would have to ask for help. However, both Freeholders and municipalities argued that the bill was unnecessary.
While the intention of the bill would be to save money for taxpayers, Monmouth County Freeholder said with in infrastructure on the county's part to operate beaches, it would be a financial disaster.
"You're going to see added cost to the municipality, added cost to the county, and the services aren't going to be as efficient as they are today," Smith.
Ocean County Freeholder John Bartlett said each individual beach currently does a good job of maintaining their beach and staffing life guards. The freeholder noted that while each shore town currently can maintain its own identity, a county wide plan would have to be 'cookie cutter.'
"They all run different types of beaches, some want their beaches packed person to person with tourist dollars others are more quiet and more sedate," said Bartlett.
Arnone, who has championed shared services throughout his tenure as a Freeholder, said communities who rely on shore nightlife would especially be left in a lurch since a countywide plan would only cover lifeguards form 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"With that nightlife comes cost. So if the costs are absorbed by the county, it ends right there (at five) and the costs get put on the municipalities but they have no revenue coming back in," Arnone said.
Bartlett also said the measure would force additional work on the county, especially since it would mean staffing lifeguards along the 127 miles of Jersey Shore.
"That's not like running a little lifeguard stand at a pond or a lake, that ocean water is dangerous. So you need real professional lifeguards with professional training. That doesn't work from Toms River," he said.
During Monday's meeting, only John Weber of the Surfrider Foundation spoke in favor of the idea, citing the benefit of a regional beach pass which could be done under the bill.
"Imagine if your badge was good anywhere, you would go and check out a different beach and go to the restaurants or businesses in that town," he said.