Saturday, May 30, 2009

An Interesting Look at Privatized Military Housing

If you have 20 minutes, this PBS piece from Bill Moyers' Journal (Dec. 19, 2008) is certainly worth watching on a slow weekend for perspective on privatized military housing.

The Laurelwood housing mess results partly from the government's longstanding view of privatization as a cost-saving measure. To be sure, there is little monetary outlay and at the same time our military is presumably filling its housing needs. Quite the contrary, according to this expose, which looks into a case on the West Coast where a particular contractor once banned by HUD cozied up to a military bigwig to garner a large contract at Washington State military bases. And, yes, the Navy is at the center of it...sense a trend?!


Friday, May 29, 2009

APP: Colts Neck OKs suing Navy over housing

Good morning, NOPE supporters!

The U.S. Navy's Record of Decision on Laurelwood housing has set in motion a chain reaction that is sure to draw greater attention to this issue, which NOPE suggests the Navy is not looking for, namely since we've argued all along that a key component of NWS Earle's built-in defense is the relative anonymity of the base. That is, we really do not have a grasp of how significant an installation we're residing near, nor do most people who drive by on Rt. 34, 36 or along Normandy Road.

This morning's Asbury Park Press story by Nina Rizzo, who has so professionally tracked this story, brings to light Colts Neck's move to pursue litigation against the Navy in an effort to stop the planned civilian housing project at Earle. The question now becomes whether Tinton Falls, or other Monmouth County municipalities or boroughs - or the County or State itself, join the suit or file actions of their own. The story, however, is unclear of the parameters of the lawsuit, though we will share them once we have details or (hopefully) a copy of it.

More interestingly, perhaps, and somewhat underplayed in Nina's story this morning brings to light a press release NOPE issued May 12, 2009, where we pick apart an extremely interesting supplement (Supplemental Agreement No. 43, signed in 2002) to the original 1980s-era Laurelwood lease that seemed to a) give away the Navy's right to terminate the lease under National Emergency Termination clauses and b) could obligate the Navy to $20 million of payments to Laurelwood beyond 2010, assuming Mrs. Fischer is unable to occupy the homes w/civilian tenants. This runs counter to the Navy's argument that rental payments will end in 2010. We'll try to include a link to that Press Release - and the actual Laurelwood contract itself - in the days to follow.

By the way, as NOPE argued in its original business case published in November 2008 and available for download from the main page of our website, it would probably cost the U.S. Navy/federal government no more than $20 million to buy out the contract, especially when considering the costs that will go into creating the access route, Mrs. Fischer's renovation and upkeep of the property for the next 31 years, and the costs of a required teardown in 2040. Yes, the contract specifies the Laurelwood homes must be town down by 2040 (and the land restored to its original a wetland, mind you).

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

NOPE's Official Response to the Navy's "Record of Decision"

The link goes to the Asbury Park Press story from May 22, where NOPE's response is summarized on p. 3. However, here is the press release that we issued within hours of learning of the U.S. Navy's "Record of Decision":



Colts Neck, New Jersey – May, 2009
The U.S. Navy’s formal decision to press ahead with an ill-advised plan to open Naval Weapons Station Earle’s Laurelwood housing to civilian tenants by 2010 is a slap in the face to the more-than-1, 000 area citizens who weighed in on the government’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) but were blatantly ignored.

Neighbors Opposed to Privatization at Earle (NOPE) learned Friday that Navy leadership, displaying poor judgment in an age of broader terrorism, verified “Alternative Alignment 4” (as spelled out in the Final EIS issued April 11, 2009) as the location of an unimpeded civilian access route through the heart of one of the U.S. Military’s most significant weapons and ammunitions storage facilities.

The irrational decision to put a housing contract above all else (i.e. national security, financial devastation to area towns and the Navy itself) and ignore the options of voiding or buying out the Laurelwood lease calls into question the motivation of Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy Howard E. Snow’s decision to accept the EIS, at a time where NOPE has uncovered significant flaws, namely failure to:

- Take the public’s concerns seriously;
- Acknowledge the “No Build Option” as viable;
- Comply with regulatory provisions requiring financial analysis as part of the EIS;
- Engage the developer in buyout negotiations, a full seven years after the developer approached the Navy about a buyout ($29 million in 2002);
- Admit that putting more than 1,000 civilians on a weapons base will distract base security from its intended mission of providing ammunition to the fleet;
- Consider that Tinton Falls taxpayers have subsidized the cost to educate nearly 5,000 military dependants since the late 1980s and (as the Navy's ROD suggests) will be burdened by an un-funded mandate of more than $300 million to school civilian children;
- Protect the men and women stationed at NWS Earle from the threat of domestic terrorism against the base;

Furthermore, NOPE calls into question the continued laissez faire attitude of New Jersey’s U.S. Senators – Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg – and Governor Jon Corzine toward this issue and encourages them to articulate a response to the Navy’s decision to turn NWS Earle into an open target for domestic terrorism.

NOPE will continue to fight the Laurelwood housing issue and steadfastly argues that the Navy should act responsibly and in the public’s interest. NOPE also acknowledges the continued efforts and support of Congressman Chris Smith, U.S. Representatives Rush Holt and Norm Dicks (D-WA), 12th-District Senator Jennifer Beck, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, and various other members of local government.

NOPE encourages its supporters to press all elected federal officials to support NOPE’s bid to prevent this inevitable security, financial and environmental RECIPE FOR DISASTER from ever occurring at NWS Earle.

NOPE steadfastly argues that the U.S. Navy should immediately withdraw not only the EIS, but also the “Record of Decision” itself.

APP: Editorial - Strike A Deal On Earle Housing

Much of what we have argued as a group is highlighted in this editorial from May 27, 2009. The obvious point here is that the Navy, for whatever reason, is steadfastly opposed to meeting Mrs. Fischer, owner of Laurelwood Housing, LLC, halfway on a lease buyout and is fooling no one in arguing that the houses are worth $100 million-plus. Even Mr. Shook, Mrs. Fischer's attorney, calls the Navy's estimate "grossly overstated."

Meanwhile, the perception of "a battle between Colts Neck and Tinton Falls" is a bit askew - clearly the towns have much at stake financially on the education issue, but there seems to be a consensus that letting civilians reside on a weapons base will compromise regional safety and invite a recipe for disaster in a post-9/11 era of terrorism.