Ocean County can’t paint thin blue line — trying flags instead
TOMS RIVER — Ocean County officials looking to pain a blue line on Hooper Avenue have been stymied by transportation regulations.
Ocean County Board of Commissioners Director Gary Quinn was hoping to get the rest of the board to approve the idea suggested by Sheriff Mike Mastronardy. The proposed line would have been painted along Hooper Avenue in Toms River in an area that houses the Ocean County Sheriff's Office, Prosecutor's Office, Superior Court and county jail, according to Quinn.
Except it will be flags instead of a painted line.
Quinn said that as a county road, DOT guidelines prohibit such blue lines. Violating the DOT’s policy puts the liability on the county if something were to happen.
“Having heard that we reached out to our county counsel to make sure that if we proceed with the line versus flags, we’re not putting ourselves into a situation where we’re jeopardizing the country or creating any problems down the road. Ultimately the taxpayers are the ones who pay for things when there is liability and we don’t want to put taxpayers in that situation," Quinn said.
The new plan is to line the curb in same area with an estimated 75 blue flags of a design yet to be chosen. Quinn said it will not be a U.S. flag altered with a blue line. The cost will be the same as if they painted the road although Quinn said exact figures are still being worked out.
"We all support our police officers and law enforcement people throughout the county and we think it would be a nice tribute to show support for these folks," Quinn told New Jersey 101.5. "They go out there, they put their lives on the line. I think it's important for them to realize the county stands behind them and we do everything we can to help them."
Mastronardy said he brought the idea to the commissioners after attending a meeting of the Monmouth County Police Chief's Association.
"Right now people are demonizing our law enforcement and public safety and they should show support for us," Mastronardy said.
Blue lines painted on streets and the symbolism of the blue line have faced criticism since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis nearly a year ago.
Flemington Mayor Betsy Driver had the blue line covered on Main Street hours before a Black Lives Matter protest in June, calling it a "shameful, divisive dividing line" that made some residents and visitors feel unwelcome and threatened.
A panel to review racial issues in Holmdel concluded in a preliminary report that a blue line painted outside the municipal building in 2016 has a different meaning in 2021.
“The symbol has been appropriated by white supremacists groups and the Blue Line now has the effect of making some members of our community feel unwelcome, and even threatened, in Holmdel. The HRC finds this impact unacceptable,” the Ad Hoc Human Relations Committee wrote in its preliminary report.
The report drew criticism from residents and Deputy Mayor Cathy Weber, who served on the panel, later apologized for the "hurtful" language of the report and noted that the panel only recommended not maintaining the current line.
"If we have folks who object to it we respect their opinion, we'll certainly always listen to each and every person who has an opinion but at the end of the day I don't believe it's going to be as volatile an issue as a lot of people make it out to," Quinn said.
Quinn acknowledges efforts to cut police budgets around the country but said that's not going to happen in Ocean County or in the state.
"At the end of the day, we're going to stand proud with the men in blue and the women in blue and do everything we can to support them moving forward," Quinn said.