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It was a bumpy start to beach season in Madison this year. The new electronic beach pass system was not ready for the Memorial Day opening and town officials had to move quickly to come up with an interim plan. At a recent Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, officials discussed the updated tentative launch date for the new system: June 18.
First Selectman Tom Banisch thanked residents for being patient and said the new system should hopefully be ready soon.
“Things are moving along,” he said. “The initial problem was that the software wasn’t ready so the Beach and Rec people have done a great job of getting the word out about using last year’s pass in the interim and if you don’t have last year’s pass then they just give you a hanging pass at the gate. I have been down there many times over the last couple of weeks and things are moving smoothly.”
In the past, residents would go to the Beach & Recreation Office at Town Campus to purchase a physical beach pass, a sticker for the car.
Under the new system being developed, once a user is registered, the license plate on a car will become the beach pass, similar to how the state parks run their parking system. Madison residents will go online to register their license plate with the system and pay the standard price for the pass.
The new electronic system will have the same pricing model as last year. For 2019 beach passes, taxpayers up to the age of 59 are charged $40 for first permit and $20 for each additional vehicle in their name. Seniors are charged $10 per vehicle. Veterans are charged $10 for the first car and $20 for any additional vehicle.
Once the system is underway, when a resident goes to the beach, there will no longer be a gate guard checking plates, which town officials hope will cut down on lines. Town employees—the Beach & Rec summer staff—will instead patrol the parking lot with a handheld license plate reader they’ll use to scan the plates to determine if the cars are registered with the town system as a beach pass purchaser.
Complus Data provides the system being developed. Town officials say there was no upfront cost to bring this digital system online; the company providing the software and license plate readers takes a percentage of any permits issued to cover costs.
Banisch said Complus Data has told the town that the system should be up and running by Tuesday, June 18, which Banisch says gives the town plenty of time to get people on the new system before July 4.
“We have adapted well to the delay and I have heard from a lot of people who are asking question and its good because people are reaching out and not just to complain,” he said. “They are saying how is this going and how can we help so that has been positive.”
Selectman Al Goldberg raised the issue of revenue projections from the sale of beach passes. Beach and Rec Director Scot Erskine said the revenue projections won’t be as high this fiscal year, but said the town should see higher revenue projections in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1 as residents are put on the new system.
For this season, under both the temporary arrangement and eventually the electronic system, the town will enforce parking until 5 p.m. The goal is to eventually expand enforcement until later in the evening to try to curb the rush of out-of-town residents who come to the beaches after hours, but Erskine previously said town officials decided not to go too fast, too soon this first year.
“We are only going to be checking until 5 p.m.,” he said. “The commission felt that we should ease into the new system and try to keep it as much the same as last season so as not to confuse people. If it goes well, then next year we can look at things like maybe expanding the hours.”
Banisch said he will try to keep residents informed about the electronic system as more news becomes available. He said residents with concerns can check the town’s website and Facebook page and reach out to him at 203-245-5602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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