Earlier last call in Pt. Beach?
By MATTHEW McGRATH
TOMS RIVER BUREAU
Mayor Vincent R. Barrella says he will recommend a requirement that bars close three hours earlier — at 11 p.m. — because police and public works jobs will need to be eliminated if a controversial boroughwide expansion of paid parking is not approved by March 31.
At the Borough Council meeting Tuesday night, Barrella accused “some businesses making money” here as a drain on police and public works services.
“We have a culture of corporate welfare in this town,” Barrella said. “Those people are in this room, and until they want to come to the table to make (a partnership with the borough) work, the taxpayers will continue to see tax increases to support those businesses in this town.”
The mayor’s suggestion to cut bar hours was met with laughter from the standing-room-only crowd of more than 100 people who spilled out of the small courtroom into the hallway at borough hall.
“I am shocked at the venom the mayor expressed toward the boardwalk businesses,” Ed McGlynn, attorney for Jenkinson’s, said following the Borough Council meeting. “I am really perplexed by the attack on the major industry, largest employer and largest taxpayer in town.”
Jenkinson’s owns large portion of the beach, nightclubs, boardwalk amusements and an aquarium. Other portions of the beach and the boardwalk also are privately owned. The boardwalk businesses provide their own private security and remove trash from the boardwalk at its expense, McGlynn said.
If the parking plan is not implemented, the cut in bar hours would be needed because town employees would need to be laid off or furloughed because of an estimated $1.5 million budget shortfall created by state caps on tax collection and overall spending, Barrella said.
The cut in bar hours would reduce the need for police services. At least six full-time officers would have to be laid off to balance the budget, Barrella said.
The budget caps are causing similar problems throughout the Jersey Shore.
Borough officials estimated the expanded paid parking will generate at least $1 million by charging visitors $1.50 per hour to park on every borough street. Payments would be made over the phone with a credit card.
More than $1.44 million was collected in 2007 from parking meters and kiosks. There are some free lots that would remain free.
“This is class discrimination, not everyone has cell phones and credit cards,” said Trish Mollema of Spotswood, who is a summer resident here. “It will not stop people from coming, it will stop poor people from coming here.”
Barrella said, “Parking is the only way we can raise money in this town.”
However, some council members said the plan is being rushed. “I’m not saying this is a bad idea, it does have some merit,” Councilman John Dixon said. “This is not how this should be done. It’s being rushed and its just going to turn into a disaster as far as I’m concerned.”
After a 90-minute debate about the proposal, the council postponed further discussion of its parking proposal until a meeting scheduled for March 10.
Earlier Tuesday, the New Jersey Association of Realtors denounced the parking plan.
“It’s baffling as to why a town that thrives off of tourism would pursue a proposal that makes it more expensive for families to vacation there,” Jarrod C. Grasso, association vice president, said in a statement. “In this economy when many people are looking to scale back their travel plans, Point Pleasant Beach should look to position itself as an affordable family-friendly vacation destination.”