Friday, February 19, 2010

NOPE welcomes new NWS Earle base commander

The Asbury Park Press this morning reports that Capt. David "Fuzz" Harrison was sworn in as the new commander at Naval Weapons Station Earle and that Capt. Gary Maynard is headed for greener pastures (and presumably fewer headaches) in Hawaii. NOPE welcomes Capt. Harrison and wishes nothing but the best for Capt. Maynard during his transition to Pearl Harbor.

The transition to Capt. Harrison is likely a non-issue regarding the Laurelwood housing issue, considering NOPE's recognition (unlike the media's, and APP's Jim McConville in today's report) that all shots on the proposed civilian rental are being called MUCH higher up the Department of Navy food chain in Washington, D.C. McConville could not be more wrong in reporting that Capt. Maynard "was also in the middle of a protracted and sometimes bitter dispute with Colts Neck residents over the Navy's proposal to lease to civilians its Laurelwood housing area." NO ONE started a dispute specifically with Capt. Maynard, an important member of our Monmouth County community. (Too, the "dispute" goes well beyond Colts Neck...all the way up to the U.S. Senate, in fact.)

No one was at loggerheads with Capt. Maynard, personally. The discrepancy remains squarely with the DoN, which put Capt. Maynard (and now Capt. Harrison) in the middle of a PR firestorm with not only the NOPE community, but more significantly, our representatives in D.C. (i.e. Senators Menendez and Lautenberg, Congressmen Smith and Holt), who have objections with the DoN's Laurelwood housing plan.

More interestingly in today's APP story, Mr. McConville reports that "a final decision on use of the housing complex is still yet to be made." We will follow up with Mr. McConville for clarification on his wording, but NOPE has been under the impression (as detailed by the Navy in its obviously flawed EIS) that the final decision has already been made - that the military-use phase (i.e. "in-lease") expires April 30 and the civilian rental phase (i.e. "out-lease") begins May 1, and civilian renters could reside at Laurelwood as soon as this September.

If Mr. McConville's quote is accurate, this could signal that the DoN is having a change of heart that, as NOPE has argued for 2+ years, civilian housing and unimpeded access (for anyone who can cut a rent check) inside an active Naval ordnance storage facility for the next 30 years, is a horrible move from security, business-case and environmental/health perspectives. We will alert NOPE supporters of any feedback on our followup with Mr. McConville.

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