2012-05-10 / Schools

Sea Bright lacks police support, cancels fireworks

Projections for 35,000 spectators and $15K added cost for July Fourth fireworks
BY KRISTEN DALTON Staff Writer

SEA BRIGHT — No fireworks will be lighting up the sky on Sea Bright’s oceanfront this July Fourth. The Borough Council canceled the town’s firework display at the May 1 meeting, citing insufficient police support.

“With much sadness I unfortunately have to tell everyone that the fireworks, at the police department’s request, is going to be canceled this year,” said Councilman Marc Leckstein, who was head of the July 4 Fireworks Committee.

“The police chief essentially indicated that he was unable to find supporting staff. He could not find police officers from any other municipalities who were able to work that day, and obviously we’re not going to go against the police and tell them how to run the town. We trust the police chief and his judgment and I’m not going to second-guess it.”

With the cancellation of Red Bank’s Ka- Boom! Fireworks on the Navesink as well as Rumson’s simultaneous display just a few miles down river, the Sea Bright Borough Council anticipated a record crowd filtering into Sea Bright during the holiday.

With only 11 police officers on staff, Police Chief John Sorrentino reached out to neighboring municipalities as far west as Colts Neck to seek an additional 10-15 police officers to patrol the July Fourth celebration for $72 per hour. There were no takers.

“It wasn’t our police department that we couldn’t get people for. What it is was, as we reached out to neighboring municipalities, the problem was the worry of the cancellation of Red Bank and Rumson and the additional people in town,” said Councilman Read Murphy.

“Our chief felt we needed more police protection, so he reached out to neighboring towns and they couldn’t get any officers to volunteer for the duty.”

According to Murphy, the police chief was worried about the fact that the Red Bank fireworks had typically drawn about 100,000 people every year, a portion of which would now visit Sea Bright for fireworks and put additional responsibility on first responders, especially the police force.

He estimated this year’s event would cost an additional $15,000, mostly to cover police expenses for the 35,000 people expected to come into town.

The event, which normally costs about $20,000 every year, is financed through funds set aside by the borough as well as donations.

According to Leckstein, the borough had already received two donations this year, including a $500 donation from Oceanview Marina and a pledge by Driftwood Beach Club.

However, financing did not play a part in the cancellation, he said.

“I don’t believe this was a financial issue. I thinkwe did have the money to make it happen and it was clearly a manpower issue,” said Leckstein.

“We have the funds in place and we’re trying to get donations for next year, and hopefully we can make this happen [next year].”

The Sea Bright fireworks have been around for nearly 20 years, boosting revenues for businesses and restaurants up and down Ocean Avenue.

“I think the whole council generally thinks the fireworks are a benefit, but the other side of that coin is I don’t want to put it on the citizens. The citizens want them, but if financially we went to the tax base to do it, they’d complain. It’s just a lose-lose for the council,” said Murphy.

“I’m sad to see them go. It took us a long time to get them going.”

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