BELMAR, NJ — Belmar will kick off sales of its 2019 beach badges next month with prices remaining unchanged from 2018 — at least for now.

After several rain-dampened seasons that stunted badge sales, coupled with increasing beachfront costs, the borough council is exploring whether to raise the cost of $55 seasonal badges and $15 senior badges, and to create a paid badge for 12- to 15-year-olds. Currently, youngsters age 15 and under are permitted on Belmar’s beaches at no charge.

During a workshop discussion on November 20, Councilman and Mayor-Elect Mark Walsifer said that beachfront director Gene Cory is recommending that the price of the seasonal badge be hiked $20 to $75 and that the senior badge for those age 62 and older be increased $10 to $25. There currently are no plans to increase the $8 daily badge.

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“We haven’t raised beach badge (prices) in a while and with a cost of everything going up down there, he recommends we go to $75 for a season badge,” Walsifer said.

Cory is also proposing the teenage badge, to carry the same price as the senior badge, as a way to control the number of persons over age 15 who are getting on the beach for free. While checking beach badges, beach attendants are confronted with young people without badges who claim they are 15 years old, but they have no way to prove that is the case — and they are permitted on the beach without having to pay.

While Mayor Brian Magovern and council members Thomas Brennan and Jennifer Nicolay expressed their opposition to specially designated teenage badges, Magovern proposed another option: to allow free beach access to youngsters up to age 13, and then require those age 14 and older to buy the standard seasonal or daily badge.

“If you’re in grammar school, you get on the beach for free. If you’re in high school, you have a buy a badge,” he said.

Magovern also called the current $15 senior badge price “grossly too low,” especially since individuals age 62 and older qualify for the badge. “Most people (age 62) are still working. Are they really senior citizens?” he said, recommending the age limit be raised to 65 year old, when individuals are eligible for Medicare.

While Magovern suggested the seasonal badge price be increased $15 to $70, Brennan and Nicolay voiced their support for a hike of no more than $5 to $10.

“I like that we can say we’re the cheapest beach around,” Nicolay said, adding that Belmar is family friendly because of its lower fees. “When you have two, three kids, (going to the beach) can become quite expensive.”

Acknowledging that another season of bad weather could spell trouble for Belmar’s beach budget, Brennan said he remains hesitant to raise fees unless absolutely necessary. “I would be more comfortable raising fees if I knew it would be going to increase pay for our (beachfront) staff, particularly the lifeguards,” he said.

While Belmar currently offers the second highest wages for lifeguards based on experience, “it won’t take much to make us the highest paid. That would help us in our recruitment.”

MORE FROM 2018 BEACH SEASON: Belmar Selects Leadership Team for Lifeguard Operations

The last time the borough council raised beach badge fees was in 2014 for the 2015 season, with the seasonal rate rising by $5 to $55 and the daily rate by $1 to $8. The senior rate remained unchanged at that time.

Belmar beach badges for the 2019 season can be purchased beginning December 3 at the Belmar Municipal Building, 601 Main Street, Belmar. For more information or to obtain a badge application, visit its website by clicking here.

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