Cape May approves free beach tags for veterans

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CAPE MAY — Veterans and active military personnel and their families will get free beach tags in Cape May this summer.

Cape May government Tuesday night became the latest in the state to approve such an ordinance during a meeting at City Hall. Gov. Chris Christie signed a law in January that permits beach communities to provide free or reduce fee tags to veterans.

"I think what you're doing is not to save the veterans $20-$30 on a beach tag. It's that veteran who’s walking down the beach 10 years after he gets discharged and says 'Somebody cares,’” said Joe Griffies, a Vietnam veteran of Middle Township.

The city government will have a supply of 1,000 free beach tags, but more will be ordered if needed, city manager Bruce MacLeod said.

"We are very confident, even if we're oversubscribed, which we hope we will be, that we have the capability of doing this," Mayor Edward J. Mahaney Jr. said.

Cape May has the only beach utility in the state. It is essential that it be self-liquidating, meaning that the beach tags would pay for themselves over a short time. If not, taxpayers will have to fund the shortfall, he said.

MacLeod said at a previous city council meeting that he projected the municipality losing $24,000.

In looking into the free beach tags, MacLeod checked in with other municipalities – Stone Harbor, Avalon, Sea Isle City and Ocean City. He wanted to find out the financial impact free beach tags could have on Cape May and came up with a loss in revenue at $20,000-$28,000.

"It's not the cost of the beach tags. It's the years after when the veterans come home," Griffies said.

The beach tags would be available to veterans and military servicemen and women and their spouses and children. Also included would be the New Jersey Air National Guard and the New Jersey Army National Guard.

Councilman William Murray, who introduced the ordinance to city council, said the free beach tags are well deserved.

Todd Prestidge, commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, also praised Cape May City Council. He expressed appreciation from the 1,000 active military personnel at the Coast Guard Base and the veterans who live in Cape May.

The tags will have the American flag on them and will be available in the tax office in City Hall. The ordinance becomes effective in April.

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