Old Bridge orders resident to pay $70K for his crazy holiday light display
OLD BRIDGE — A township holiday tradition that has drawn national attention is now in jeopardy after local officials said the homeowner behind the annual light show will have to pay for security and transportation.
Thomas Apruzzi said he met with township officials who determined he would have to spend almost $70,000, or $1 for every light he used in last year's display, if he wants to keep the annual tradition going. On the Facebook page for the T&A Sprinklers Light Show, Apruzzi said the costs would amount to around $2,600 per night for police and shuttle service.
In an effort to cover the costs, a GoFundMe page has been established to raise $75,000. As of Tuesday night the drive has raised $565 of that goal. The page said the show has been going on for 15 years and has become "a tradition not only for their family, but for many families in Old Bridge and neighboring towns."
In addition to being an attraction for people from all over, the show also serves as a fundraiser for "Homes For Our Troops," an organization that helps military veterans. The light show was also featured on ABC's "Great Christmas Light Fight" in 2014, and the family had been invited to compete again next year, according to the fundraising page.
According to the GoFundMe page, the Apruzzi family and around 100 local residents met with the Township Council to get approval for this year's show, which was granted without any stipulations. However, "a few influential residents were able to persuade the Mayor and Chief of Police to set unrealistic monetary stipulations on the family," the GoFundMe page said.
Apruzzi met with the mayor and chief on Monday night for what he was assuming was to go over the final details. That was not the case. The Apruzzis were told that rather than using police auxiliary as they had in the past, they would have to pay $2,000 a night for police coverage. They were also told that the required shuttle service would cost around $1,000 per night.
"The Apruzzi family is so passionate about sharing their light show and dedicated to continuing the annual traditions for their neighbors as well as Homes For Our Troops, that Thomas is determined too fund the first couple nights out of his own pocket," the GoFundMe page says.
Last year, Apruzzi told New Jersey 101.5 that a group of neighbors had been complaining about the show since the family appeared on TV, which put the event in jeopardy a year ago. Mayor Owen Henry told New Jersey 101.5 last year that the show was not violating any local laws and that steps were being taken to address crowd control.
"I'm not worried about inconveniences but when they raise the issue of public safety and thinking that they cannot get an emergency vehicle down the street should anyone need it, the town has to step in," Henry said at the time.
The mayor said the town had blocked the street to all cars except local residents, which led to people parking on adjoining streets and walking. As a result, he said they were looking for safer alternatives, but that it would not deter the show.
"I'm not going to be the Grinch that pulls the plug on this," Henry said at the time. "I'm not going to change the name of the street to Bah Humbug Avenue."
Owen did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comments about the latest developments involving the show, which typically runs through New Year's Day.