By Robin Rieger
SEA ISLE CITY, N.J. (CBS) – Many New Jersey beach towns will need beach replenishment funds following Superstorm Sandy. If legislation sponsored by state Senator Michael Doherty and state Senate President Steve Sweeney becomes law, storm damaged towns that accept federal replenishment funds must provide free beach access and public toilet facilities.
“This proposed legislation I feel is totally ridiculous. We can say that if you take federal or state funding for highways and roads, then maybe the tolls should be lifted,” said Sea Isle City Mayor Len Desiderio.
He and other Cape May County beach town mayors opposed the measure Monday, calling the beach tag fee, a user fee that beach towns depend on.
Stone Harbor Mayor Suzanne Walters says $700,000 they took in from beach fees last season was to pay for lifeguards and maintenance.
“If we don’t have that, it goes to taxpayers,” said Walters.
“People come here and they expect to be protected and we just cannot continue to do more with less,” said Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian.
Desiderio says four beach regions in New Jersey generate $18 billion of the state’s $35 billion tourism income. He questions the timing of this bill.
“We have businesses that are still out. We have home owners who are displaced,” he said.
But some visitors we spoke with favor the legislation.
“We got to pay for getting the beaches to be refurnished with sand. That comes out of the taxpayer’s money so why do we have to pay double and pay for the beaches too to go on the beach?” asked Steve Schuster of Barrington.
That’s the argument Senator Sweeney made to Eyewitness News. He says beach replenishment will cost taxpayers over a billion dollars. He says beach towns have other revenue streams and can also look for ways to operate more efficiently.