Mayor says long lines reflect beach badge ‘panic’

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Outside of Avon’s borough hall, people waited hours for their 2021 seasonal beach badges last week after the mayor said there was “misinformation that led to a panic. (MARK R. SULLIVAN/THE COAST STAR)

AVON-BY-THE-SEA — Long lines could be seen stretched across the walkways in front of borough hall last week as people waited up to three hours to purchase their 2021 season beach badges.

“We anticipated that we’d have lines. But we didn’t expect to have the lines that we did,” Mayor Ed Bonanno said at Monday night’s committee meeting.

Mayor Bonanno said that the lines were a result of “misinformation that led to a panic,” regarding the borough’s badge sales, which it had not planned to cap, such as Spring Lake’s controversial decision to do so. 

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The mayor said the borough sold about 2,000 badges during December, when many are purchased as Christmas gifts. After the holidays, due to an uptick in COVID-19 numbers locally, Avon shut down its offices for several months again and could not begin selling badges until March. 

Additionally, he said that when badges went on sale on Tuesday, one of the borough’s cashiers was out sick with COVID.

“We’re in a bit of a staff crunch and it was far more than expected. We apologize for the inconvenience because it was a long wait, particularly on Tuesday,” Mayor Bonanno said.

Commissioner Bob Mahon said that he waited for three hours on Tuesday when badges went on sale from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Things moved smoother on Thursday, when badges went on sale again, as the borough added an additional cashier, and the line had disappeared by noon. Some residents expected long lines and brought lawn chairs to sit in while they waited. 

“There’s so much disinformation. Two folks behind me from the Fair Haven area were absolutely convinced that we sold out of badges in April of last year even though we didn’t start selling them until May, so they felt like they had to be here in March,” said the mayor, who waited in line for about two hours on Thursday.

The next opportunity for badges will likely be sometime in April, perhaps on a weekend. Daily badges will be available beginning weekends in May.

“Moving forward, we have plenty of badges. We’re going to be selling them again sometime in April and hopefully we can get more cashiers. Most are teachers and aren’t available during the week. So we’ll try and schedule the next one on a weekend,” Mayor Bonanno said.

Commissioner John Magrini said that there have been two criticisms that he has heard the most since last week: why don’t Avon residents get preferential badge treatment and why did the borough not decide to sell badges online?

“First of all, we can’t do that for residents as much as we’d like to. We can’t do anything special for our residents, that’s why there is no ‘residents only’ line,” Commissioner Magrini said. “The online system I don’t think would be very good for anybody, because as you saw with other towns, they sold out in 10 minutes. It would limit the opportunity for more people to get badges … and then we’d really be in a predicament. So as much as the technology would allow us to do it, we don’t think it’s the right way to distribute badges.” 

Badge sales in-person are limited to eight per transaction currently.

Commissioner Mahon agreed, saying he believes there is “panic buying” going on locally.

“It’s nice to see so many people appreciate our beach and we’ll certainly improve on our system of trying to make badges available,” Mr. Mahon said.