Saturday, July 18, 2009

Structure Fire on Naval Weapons Station Earle

The Navy claims that the emergency services of the surrounding towns will not be impacted by their plan to allow civilian renters unimpeded access to the 300 Laurelwood housing units, however the facts indicate otherwise as evidenced by the following:
A structure fire erupted during the demolition of a building located on the west side of NWS Earle. It is believed that sparks generated while cutting reinforcement bar (rebar) ignited the surrounding insulation causing the blaze. The Colts Neck Fire Company was called and asked to bring in a Tanker (84297) and Ladder truck (84190).
Adding an additional 300 families with the inherent possibility of generating a proportionally higher need for emergency services will most definitely put additional strain on the volunteer emergency responders of Colts Neck and Tinton Falls.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Earmarks (and a theory on why the argument that the Navy can't afford to buy out Laurelwood is bunk)

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) ran an interesting piece that - surprise(!) - reveals that earmarks are alive and well in America, particularly in the House Appropriations Committee on Defense, where all 18 members (New Jersey's own Steve Rothman and Rodney Frelinghuysen among them) submitted earmark (read: no-bid contracts) requests totaling $2 billion for Fiscal 2010. Fortunately, all requests and figures are available publicly.

Surely, based on data in NOPE's own business case study of the issue, and cursory glances at public filings of earmark requests, there must be $17-$20 million available somewhere for the Navy to be able to make a reasonable buyout offer (if it will not simply void the contract as it can) to make the whole Laurelwood housing debacle go away.

For example, take some of Mr. Rothman's pressing requests: $1.04 million to station 16 cops at the eyesore Meadowlands Xanadu, a privately built entertainment and retail complex (debacle might be more appropriate); $2 million for Bergen County Quiet Zones, to fund a study on how to cut down on noise pollution and train horn blares along the tracks of Bergen County; $625k toward renovations of a mansion at Georgian Court University; $5 million to rehab the Hackensack Park-and-Ride facility, and $650k to study blueberry disease.

There's about $9.5 million alone, in 5 minutes of research.

Interestingly, also on the list is Norm Dicks, an implied NOPE ally by virtue of co-signing the April 17, 2009 letter with District 12 Representative Rush Holt requesting that the Navy delay any action on Laurelwood until it can conduct an accurate financial assessment. We surely hope Mr. Dicks could suggest redirecting some earmarks toward a Laurelwood buyout...and for the sake of avoiding a potential national security catastrophe with civilian residents and unimpeded access introduced to one of the largest U.S. weapons depots by September 2010.

Regardless of where these earmarks are directed, the notion that the federal government (i.e. the U.S. Navy) cannot drum up relative pocket change to protect NWS Earle's mission and make a really bad contract disappear is about as real as the Tooth Fairy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

News Transcript story on Colts Neck lawsuit vs. Navy

Although this media story does an ample job highlighting much of what we've addressed here on the Colts Neck lawsuit, NOPE takes issue with the assertion that the U.S. Navy is entirely off the hook for any rental payments after September 2010.

Our reading of the original 52-year housing contract between the Navy and Laurelwood's predecessor Dick Fischer Developments #3 and dozens of subsequent supplements uncovered evidence to the contrary (all were obtained by NOPE under the Freedom of Information Act.)

In particular, Supplemental Lease No. 43 (follow this link), which suggests that the Navy may be obligated to rental payments thru 2017, depending on the civilian occupancy rate of the Laurelwood townhomes. (To clarify, these units are not "apartments" as the Colts Neck suit suggests, but single-family homes of 2- to 4-bedrooms; and Laurelwood's owner, Mrs. Fischer, according to testimony in the Environmental Impact Statement, expects to rent them for $1,600-$2,200 per month.)

Anyway, we invite you to read and comment on this particular supplemental lease. Laurelwood's attorney, in this piece printed in the May 13, 2009 Asbury Park Press, refutes NOPE's interpretation, saying the supplement was mandated by Laurelwood's lenders upon Mrs. Fischer's refinancing of the Laurelwood mortgage in 2002, but in our view the Navy entirely dropped the ball in agreeing to SA 43, which seems to obligate them to additional rental payments upwards of $20 million and might have compromised their ability to exercise their contractual right to revoke the contract (though hopefully not) without a buyout.

Let us know what you think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

950 TONS!!!

This piece is a bit in hindsight, but articulates the magnitude of the mission of Naval Weapons Station Earle, and the types of armaments not only stored and handled at NWS Earle, but also that presumably make their way from Mainside storage, then along Normandy Road by train or tractor trailors (thru Colts Neck, Northern Tinton Falls and Middletown) en route to Earle's pier.

The March 10, 2009 Navy Newstand reported that the USS Wasp, billed "the lead ship of an all-new class of multipurpose amphibious assault ships" whose primary mission is "the support of a Marine Landing Force," onloaded 950 TONS of ordnance over an anticipated time of five days. This equated to 1,035 pallets moved over the course of 50 hours, and was conducted "in preparation for an upcoming surge to support operations in the Central Command area of responsibility." (In other words, in the Persian Gulf.)

Although it is clearly difficult for civilians such as ourselves to ascertain thru the media the strategic significance of what goes on at Weapons Station Earle, this news story sheds a bit of light on the powderkeg near which we reside, and why introducing unimpeded civilian access to the base is not the brightest idea, the Navy's financial constraints notwithstanding. NOPE certainly hopes Navy leaders in Washington reverse course on its Record of Decision on Laurelwood housing and will continue to press for such a reversal.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sen. Beck discusses Laurelwood housing issue on Comcast

Nothing earth-shattering here, but in the second of two five-minute interviews linked from the Senator's website, Senator Beck discusses the legislation she announced on July 1, along with Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlan and Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, that would essentially prohibit New Jersey DEP and DOT from approving any road construction permits for NWS Earle until the State Treasurer assesses the financial implications to NJ of the Laurelwood housing plan. Scroll about halfway thru the video to get to the Earle discussion.

And continue to spread the word to your neighbors about the first of NOPE's upcoming informational sessions, Monday, July 20 at 730pm at the Colts Neck library.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Short "Letter to the Editor" in Sunday's APP

From Barbara Matthews of Tinton Falls, headlined "No Concern for Tinton Falls"

Kudos to all those who have spoken out against the Navy's plan for Laurelwood housing, and NOPE would encourage all supporters to continue to turn up the pressure. Continue to press your legislators and the Navy itself, write letters to the editor of our state's newspapers, and help us protect our communities.

Basically, take out a few minutes of your busy lives to become involved in this cause. For more information on what has happened of late and what NOPE is doing to advance our fight, be sure to attend the upcoming NOPE Community Information Session on July 20, 7:30 p.m. at Colts Neck Library on Heritage Drive.