West Windsor may need its animal control officer in place again — to control people dressed up in furry costumes. A Memorial Day barbecue held at the Twin W Rescue Squad building on Everett Drive gave the township a black eye as a couple engaged in inappropriate behavior in broad daylight at the event, which drew an over-capacity crowd of more than 200.
West Windsor Police responded to the incident, and the man and woman, whose names have not been released, were taken into custody. The event was a “Fur-BQ” party for a statewide group of “furries” — individuals who dress up in anthropomorphic animal costumes similar to sports team mascots. The Memorial Day event was organized by a West Windsor Twin W volunteer who goes by “Tony Ringtail” in postings on one of the group’s online hubs, Furaffinity.net.
In an interview, Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said that Twin W is a 501(c)3 non-profit group that owns the rescue squad’s building. “The fact that it’s right next to the township’s municipal complex really sends the wrong message to the residents of West Windsor. Even if it isn’t township property it’s identifiable with the township. The Twin W’s equipment carries West Windsor’s logo,” Hsueh said.
Hsueh added that because Twin W is a township volunteer organization that receives part of its budget from the township, certain professional expectations are in place. “They are a major arm for emergency rescues in West Windsor. We have some paid employees working with them but they also rely on a lot of volunteers.”
This year Council approved a $15,000 increase in annual funding for Twin W, going up to $45,000. It marked the rescue squad’s first increase in 20 years.
Given Twin W’s relationship to West Windsor, Hsueh says he immediately sought an investigation by Police Chief Joe Pica and Business Administrator Robert Hary. After he was briefed by Hary and Pica, Hsueh said he was “was very surprised and very shocked.”
Shortly after the incident Mike Leahy, president of the rescue squad, met with Hary and Pica. Hsueh views Leahy as a personal friend, saying they have known each other for a long time. “I don’t believe he’d be supportive of what happened on Memorial Day. Based on the report I got from Hary, Leahy had no problem in providing the township with assurances going forward,” the mayor says.
The incident resulted in changes in codes of conduct for the Twin W building. First, Twin W will not allow alcohol to be served at the property — as in all of West Windsor’s municipal complex facilities, Hsueh said.
“Number two — and it is probably not a big problem — is that they need to have more control over Twin W activities — not having people drinking and doing crazy stuff. Any time you have a lot of young volunteers with their friends coming from other places, anything can go on. There needs to be some control over what activities they have at that property,” Hsueh said.