Wrong Badge Woes

Aug 15, 2018

To the Editor:

Recently you published an article about the Ship Bottom senior beach badges. The first paragraph in your article is 100 percent accurate: “For the second consecutive year, beach badge math in Ship Bottom isn’t adding up.” The timing of the article is curious since I recently had an issue with finance head Kathleen Flanagan and Councilman Edward English over – you guessed it – senior beach badges.

On Mother’s Day weekend, I went to town hall to purchase eight badges (regular, not senior) at the preseason rate of $30 a badge. Being a new homeowner in Ship Bottom, I did not know you could only pay with cash or check. Since I was anticipating paying with a credit card, I ran next door to Bank of America and took out exactly $240. I walked back over and I told the older woman manning the table I would like to purchase eight season badges. I paid her the $240 in cash and did not receive a receipt. In hindsight, I should have gotten a receipt, but I did not think about it on that day. The woman handed me eight badges in a Ziploc bag and I went on my way.

Fast forward to July 26. I got a frantic call from my neighbor that our renters had eight senior citizen badges and not regular ones. The beach badge checker caught it on that day. We had eight green badges with blue writing instead of the opposite. There are no markings of “senior” on the badges. As I said, I’m new to Ship Bottom and have no idea what a regular badge should look like versus a senior one. Plus, I paid $30 per badge, not $10 a badge, so I assumed it was a no-brainer that the woman simply handed me the wrong badges back in May.

I called the borough the same day and wound up dealing with Kathleen Flanagan the next day to sort it out. We went through all the details of my transaction and she outright told me that I would have to pay another $240 to replace the badges since I did not pay by check. I told her that was unacceptable and it was not my mistake to pay for. She said, “I’m not saying you’re being dishonest but ...” and I immediately cut her off because that is exactly what she was saying.

Your article states, “Although there is no surefire way to track senior badge sales, she (Flanagan) and borough officials are committed to finding a better way in the future. Right now, identification is required to purchase a $10 senior badge ...” How can I, a 37-year-old, purchase eight senior badges? I would have had to bring in eight different senior citizens in person with I.D. to purchase them. Why would I pay $240 total when, like they are saying, I could have only paid $80? If there was no “surefire way” to track senior badges in their system, why are they calling me dishonest and making me pay for their mistake?

It doesn’t add up.

Kathleen wanted to investigate more so we spoke again later and she was adamant that their accounting is correct. There are no discrepancies in the senior beach badge count and the cash they received. She repeated that I would just have to pay $240 again for eight season badges. I wasn’t taking no for an answer so she said she would email the mayor and Councilman Edward English and the councilman would get back to me.

I spoke with Councilman English on Aug. 1 and he was completely unwilling to correct the situation. He said, “It is impossible for you to have purchased eight senior badges.” And he simply could not “hand out” money from the borough because they would be $160 short. He called the situation a “mystery” that could not be solved.

He even went so far as lecturing me on paying by cash since we planned on renting our house out a few weeks during the summer. It was insulting. The councilman said the best he could do was have us pay $160 for eight regular season badges. They got to that number by honoring the preseason sale of $30/badge minus $10/badge since we were exchanging the senior badges.

Now, if I were the head of finance or a councilman in charge of parks and recreation, I would be concerned that $160 in cash had gone missing. But by making me pay a second time, they are saying I’m the dishonest one and was somehow able to finagle my way into purchasing eight senior badges at the lofty price of $240! Did they question the woman who was working the weekend I bought the badges? Maybe she gave me eight senior badges by accident and gave seniors regular badges to even it out. Maybe she, or someone else, pocketed the extra money after learning there was a mistake. Aren’t those examples as plausible as me concocting a scheme to get eight senior badges?

My family and I went to borough hall on Aug. 2 and paid the $160 for new badges. What a shame – and a sham.

We were so excited to purchase our home in Ship Bottom. We have a 2-year old daughter and another on the way so we planned on having this house in our family for generations to come. We could not be more discouraged, angry or disappointed with how this was handled. We truly thought common sense would prevail; that it was a simple human error and that I could just swap out the badges. Boy, were we wrong.

Something is fishy in the town’s accounting and they should be held responsible, not me.

Jill Skinner

Ship Bottom


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