Susan Tucker will never forget the summer of 2012.
Beginning late last spring, the Laurel Lane resident became an unofficial voice for opposition to a $10 senior beach pass fee.
Ms. Tucker had never played the role of community activist prior to her multiple appearances before the town council or her visits to neighbors, the senior center and the local beach to gather signatures for a pair of petitions.
The result of these efforts, however, have left Ms. Tucker with plenty of optimism should she decide to pursue another cause.
Last Monday night, Sept. 10, the Barrington Town Council voted to rescind the senior beach pass fee. The move signals a return to past practice whereby seniors are granted free access to Barrington Town Beach.
“It’s very rewarding,” Ms. Tucker said of the vote. “I’ve never actually fought for a cause before. It’s nice to feel that my hard work paid off.”
The matter came back before the town council last week through a couple of avenues. The town’s parks and recreation commission voted at a meeting last month to re-affirm its stance against a fee for senior citizens. The adoption of the fee was initially instituted by the town council in April during debate over a parks and recreation commission proposal to increase the regular beach pass fee from $20 to $30.
Town councilor Jeff Brenner also asked the issue be placed on the agenda. Mr. Brenner, who motioned for the senior pass fee, said he wanted to re-consider the topic after some reflection. Mr. Brenner said his vote last spring was based on information that new beach programs and activities were going to be offered to seniors, something he did not see this summer.
Town councilor Kate Weymouth said attempting to recollect and reconstruct reasons behind a vote several months ago sets a bad precedent and, to a certain extent, belittles the process of making policy.
“If we did this for every issue that we decided policy, we’d be here every night of the week,” said Ms. Weymouth, who recommended the matter be left for debate next spring by a new town council.
Mr. Brenner, who is not running for re-election this year, said he didn’t want to leave the town council without altering his vote. He added that other issues don’t re-appear on the agenda because there are not always town councilors looking to change a vote.
Town council president June Speakman said she voted against the proposal initially because town services for seniors, per capita, tend to be lower than those with families.
Town councilor Bill DeWitt said he doesn’t believe seniors or non-seniors should pay a beach pass fee. He argued the beach should be covered through local taxes akin to roads, schools or public safety.
In the end, the town council voted to rescind the matter with four in support and none in opposition.
Ms. Weymouth abstained from voting on the matter, citing a desire to vote on beach pass fees as a whole versus solely a charge for seniors. Before the conclusion of last week’s meeting, Ms. Weymouth asked that a discussion on general beach pass fees be included on the October agenda.
“I just believed that the seniors should have something for free,” Ms. Tucker said.
“This is something that they’ve had for free, that they’ve never had to pay for.”
The new policy will take effect for the 2013 summer season.