Mike Mocciae was initially speechless, but he quickly recovered. "No one reads periodicals," he said in a slightly exasperated tone. "No one reads the newspaper, nobody reads the website."
Mocciae, Norwalk's director of Recreation and Parks, had been asked whether people are still coming in to get beach stickers. Yes, they are.
The city of Norwalk announced in February that last year's stickers are good for another year, but no one seems to have gotten the message. At least 100 people a day come to City Hall for new stickers, Mocciae said, "and it's not even the season yet."
The city is converting the beach stickers to resident passes. While that transition takes place, the old stickers are still valid.
Repeat: The old stickers are still good. Don't believe it? Check out the sign posted outside the Parks and Rec office. "Keep Your Current Sticker" is highlighted. Staff members decorated it with white Christmas lights so people would see it.
Workers say people read the sign, then step in to ask something along the lines of "Do you mean it?" Other people say "What sign?" according to one worker who admits her patience is at an end.
But some people do need a new sticker. Workers are surprised at the number of people who say they got new cars. "Guy comes in and says, 'I have four new cars,'" Mocciae said. They're also surprised that people would scrape off the old stickers before getting new ones.
He was expecting about 5,000 people would need new stickers, much less than the usual 45,000 to 50,000. And that would be easier on his staff, which has been reduced. But droves of people are still coming in: There is usually a line between noon and 2 p.m., and the 100 people who make it down the hall are the ones who get past the volunteer stationed in the center of the rotunda.
Susan Crotinger had that job Thursday afternoon, and there was a stack of You-don't-need-a-beach-sticker fliers positioned prominently on her desk. She agreed that nobody knows the stickers are still good.
"This is unusual," she said. "This is not the usual way it goes." Most people are nice when she tells them they don't need a new sticker.
"People are creatures of habit," she said. "They have lived here for 50 years, or something like that, and they come here for every year. This is like a ritual for them. It's their yearly beach sticker visit."
Maybe, but if things work out residents won't have to come to City Hall anymore. The city is working toward allowing residents to get their stickers online through the city's website. If all goes according to plan, that will happen by January. The city is looking into visual scanning technology at Calf Pasture Beach; if it works it will automatically allow authorized vehicles to enter.
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