By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
While the sky lights up and music blasts across the Navesink River Sunday, and Red Bank’s north end is bursting with crowds and pre- and post-show traffic, Middletown, too, will have its share of it all.
But unlike Red Bank, the neighboring township is footing the bill for the police overtime the event necessitates.
Not fair, say Middletown’s leaders, who share concerns that, with a new fee this year to watch the Kaboom fireworks show at Riverside Gardens Park in Red Bank, more people are apt to catch the view from the north side of the river, making more work for its police force.
“It’s gotten worse every year,” said Middletown Committeeman Gerry Scharfenberger, who called Middletown the fireworks’ “incidental victims.” “It’s not an event that we sanction, but we’re left having to deal with the police and crowd control.”
In years past, Red Bank taxpayers kicked in for their own police department’s overtime, but the council pulled that from its budget last year amid a series of austerity measures to control taxes.
This year, the Kaboom Fireworks Committee is again paying that overtime cost through its fundraising efforts.
But neither the Kaboom committee nor the borough compensates for the overtime needed in Middletown, and Scharfenberger, a former mayor, says that shouldn’t be the case. The township’s overtime bill runs between $15,000 and $20,000 for the 30-minute show, he said.
Mayor Tony Fiore said the town has drafted a letter to Red Bank asking that it consider kicking in to help defray the costs, but isn’t optimistic, given Red Bank’s tight finances, he said.
“I just hope in the future that one of their fundraising goals for Kaboom, that they’ll consider their neighbors,” Fiore said.
Each year, Fiore said, Middletown’s streets are jammed with traffic going in and out of Red Bank, and crowds tend to gather on Cooper’s Bridge to catch the fireworks. With the entry fee to Riverside Gardens Park to watch the show, he fears there will be more people gathering on the Middletown side.
Fiore said it’s not just Red Bank that should consider Middletown, either. The Navesink section of town, across from Rumson where an identical fireworks show takes place, is also host to large crowds and bottleneck traffic. The town will also ask that Rumson consider helping cover police overtime.
“Each town should be taken into consideration when these things are calculated,” he said. “It would be the right thing to do.”