MADISON — With less than a month left before Labor Day and the end to the official summer season, more changes regarding local beach hours and discussions continue about complaints and concerns brought before the Beach and Recreation Commission.
While parking enforcement hours at all three local beaches were extended to 8 p.m. a month ago, the hours at Surf Club and East Wharf beaches are now monitored until 5 p.m. and West Wharf will be monitored until 8 p.m.
“The reason that we opened up the Surf Club at five o’clock, there are a lot of people from out of town that come in to eat, to picnic or they may have dinner there and it just didn’t make sense to keep the hours until eight,” said Beach and Recreation Commission Chairman Rob Card.
For Madison residents, the season pass remains $40 and the daily pass $10. In July, the commission considered replacing the hourly rate of $10 for out of town visitors with a daily rate. Card said that will not be done this season.
“In order to do that it requires a software change and upgrade,” he said.
“It’s not that they can’t do it, it would require an adjustment to the contract, it would require an increased fee. So we’ve elected there’s no need to change the contract. There’s no need to add any fees. The hourly rate to the daily rate was more of the value, it doesn’t change access, it doesn’t change people’s experience.”
This is the first year that visitor parking at all three town beaches is paid for through a website. The town entered into a contract with Complus Data, which has resulted in numerous glitches, including many local residents receiving parking tickets even though they have registered their vehicles online.
Since the town signed the contact, Complus Data Innovations has been acquired by Passport.
“We’ve all reviewed the contract at this point and what I can tell you is that it’s an annual contract, renewable up to three years, renewable on an annual basis, 90 days’ notice to cancel and no fee to cancel,” Card said.
He emphasized that discussions will be forthcoming on how to best proceed and whether continuing with Passport is the best choice for the town.
“We entered in this process knowing that we would evaluate how things went, so what’s happening isn’t anything that wasn’t already planned,” he said. “What’s different is there’s a new owner of the company and we would like to think they might bring more value, but until we meet with them, we won’t know.”
First Selectman Tom Banisch said he is confident the Beach and Recreation Commission will make recommendations that are in the best interest of the town, whether or not it includes continuing with the current system.
“We have from August 2019 until sometime in early 2020 to figure out what our options are and then choose what we move forward with, so we have time to properly vet the system to make sure that it’s going to work the way we want it to work,” he said.
“I’m really confident that because we have enough time and because we’ve learned a lot from what went wrong this year, I’m confident we can fix it.”
Card added the commission will continue to discuss and evaluate all the concerns brought forward by residents. This includes the absence of lifeguards and gate guards.
“If we could get lifeguards, we would have lifeguards,” Banisch told the ShoreLine Times in July. “We had three applications this year. Scot (Erskine) tried to build a force, but we couldn’t build a force that was adequate to do the Surf Club on the weekend.”
The commission, along with Beach and Recreation Department Director Scot Erskine, are studying the issue and plan to present a proposal to the Board of Selectman before the start of the 2020 summer season.
In the meantime, gate guards are at all the beaches Friday, Saturday and Sunday and security is in place for all hours of enforcement.
Card pointed out that the commission welcomes comments from the public.
“We actually moved our meetings to the evenings both to accommodate the commission, but also to accommodate the public,” he said. “Absolutely we want the public informed and want the public feedback.”
With all the information they have gathered, Card said they will continue to discuss and evaluate all concerns.
“The commission is going to evaluate everything, not just the hours, not just the pass system,” Card said. “We’re evaluating everything for next year. We’re going to start that process at a special meeting in September, we’ll have another one in October.
“The town has given us, the residents have given us some great feedback. I’m comfortable with where we are now, but everything is open for discussion.”