By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank police department has a new, four-legged member, thanks to mattress millionaire Michael Fux.
A fundraising drive launched earlier this month to create a new K9 unit came to an abrupt end Wednesday night when the town council accepted a $38,000 donation from Fux (pronounced ‘fyooks’) and his wife, Gloria Rubin, to cover nearly the entire cost of a police dog, a specially equipped vehicle to transport it and training for the dog and his handler.
The dog has already been acquired. He’s an 11-month-old male German shepherd named Rugger by his new master, Patrolman Stan Balmer. The two are off to 16 weeks of K9 school in Long Branch starting Monday.
“We’re already bonding,” said Balmer, a former rugby player, or “rugger,” as he showed off cellphone photos of his new partner.
Police Chief Darren McConnell tells redbankgreen he was at the Count Basie Theatre on September 6, responding to a power outage during a concert by Gloria Gaynor and the Village People, held to raise funds for the Michael Fux Foundation, when he ran into Fux. The two got to chatting about police department needs, and McConnell mentioned the department’s interest in raising $40,000 to $50,000 to establish a K9 unit, he said.
Shortly afterward, Fux, who had previously helped out with PBA fundraisers, called to say he would kick in $38,000 for the purchase of the dog, estimated at $7,000 to $10,000, and a new police vehicle, estimated to cost $40,000. The online drive has raised $2,875 as of Thursday morning.
Fux’s donation has already been received and is in a trust account, borough Administrator Stanley Sickels said. The council approved a resolution to move ahead on the purchase of the vehicle and authorize enrollment for Ballmer and Rugger.
Fux, the founder and CEO of Comfort Revolution, was said by an assistant to be traveling and unavailable for immediate comment Thursday. A former partner in the now-closed Blue Water Seafood restaurant on Broad Street, he hosted a car show in 2011 featuring 52 of his rare and exotic cars, including custom Rolls-Royces, Lamborghinis and Maseratis. At the time, he owned 114 of them. Here’s a photo slideshow.
A second prospective donor, Ceasar DePaco, president and CEO of Somerset County-based Summit Nutritionals International, also offered to supply a dog. But McConnell told the council that he thought it was best to inaugurate the unit with one dog and one handler.
Rugger was acquired from Shelly’s School for Dogs in Millstone, which imported him from Spain just over two weeks ago, said Balmer. The dog will live with him when they’re off-duty.
McConnell told the council that the dog will be used on warranted searches, mostly involving narcotics detection and searches for missing persons and suspects. Rugger is expected to generate revenue for the department in the form of asset forfeitures, he said.
Less frequently, dogs would be helpful in crowd control, he said.
Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls has volunteered to provide free healthcare for Rugger, and Helen Kaminsky of Fins and Feathers pet supply store on Monmouth Street is donating all his food, McConnell said.