Friday, February 26, 2010

S762 now on the March 4 Senate budget committee docket

The Budget and Appropriations Committee has added S762 to Thursday's 1 p.m. meeting agenda (State House Annex, Committee Room 4, 1st Floor in Trenton). As noted here Monday (scroll down), NOPE maintains a guarded, somewhat skeptical stance about whether the bill to have our State Treasurer issue a cost-benefits assessment of the Laurelwood housing plan will become reality, but inclusion of S762 on the March 4 budget committee docket at least shows the measure is moving forward in Trenton.

The one thing NOPE remains unclear about (and may never get the answer to) in this whole process is how S762 will cost New Jerseyans anything...outside the scope of salary presumably already paid to our Treasurer and the staff of that office, and why the budget committee even needs to review this bill. If we get an answer to this, we'll let our supporters know.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brief NOPE update from political liaison Elaine Mann

Elaine informs the NOPE community that Senator Beck will be a guest of Anita Velardo this Sunday morning at 8a on "The Breeze Knows" (107.1 and 99.7 FM) to discuss a range of topics, including S762--legislation in the Senate that would order the NJ Treasurer to conduct and issue a cost-benefits analysis of proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle before the DEP or DOT could issue permits to the Navy for construction of an unimpeded access road to Laurelwood homes.

Also on that front, the Colts Neck Town Committee passed a resolution last night in support of S762, on the heels of a similar move by Tinton Falls Borough Council. NOPE continues to appreciate the unwavering support of our elected town/borough officials in fighting the Department of Navy's plan to expose NWS Earle as the next Ground Zero and in the process stick us with a $300-$500 million unfunded mandate.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NWS Earle security guard contract bid update

At first glance, there is little new information to share from NOPE's routine check of the outsource security guard contract up for bids with the Department of Navy ("NECO") at Naval Weapons Station Earle, other than the award date (according to "A9" of this NECO document) will come sometime in March or April. We will update NOPE supporters of any otherwise notable findings once our Security Analyst, Jim Sfayer, and Business Case Analyst, Fulton Wilcox, have had a chance to review these highly technical documents (you can read them yourself, here).

Please revisit our January 4, 2010 blog for background on how the Myers Security contract issue bolsters NOPE's objection to civilian housing at NWS Earle. In short, NWS Earle outsources security guards to supplement base protection. NECO documents linked above shed zero light on the actual cost to the DoN or the value of the current contract to Myers, although a report from a 2009 Inspector General report put the Navy's price tag from 2004 through Sept. 2008 at $21 million, according to NOPE's findings.

Regarding this contract, and the entire civilian housing plan on an active weapons base, NOPE is concerned that the DoN lied to the public about the true cost to increase base force protection with civilian housing from 2010-2040. To be sure, DoN summarily wrote off the admitted need and cost for extra guards in its Laurelwood EIS as a purfunctory "don't worry...we can handle it." From a business case perspective, this is an utter cop-out.

As noted in Exhibit 2 of our Business Case Analysis of the Laurelwood civilian housing plan, NOPE estimates that security costs and the base commander's staff time will comprise roughly one-third of the low-ball $61 million cost to the Navy to go thru with the civilian "outlease" phase of the 52-year privatized housing contract. Such cost analysis was missing from the Navy's EIS, and NOPE suspects will come to light once the GAO issues its findings this spring and disprove DoN's contention that civilian housing at Earle makes fiscal (and security) sense.

The Department Navy, having already ill-advisedly signed away its right to revoke the lease (in 2002) during periods of declared national emergency, should finally come clean and discuss a buyout to the Laurelwood lease, and end this chirade once and for all.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Learning first hand why Trenton is a train wreck

The amazing part about NOPE is that, within a relatively small amount of time, our grassroots organization of moms, dads, senior citizens, distinguised military veterans and "average Joes" helped to get responsible, bipartisan federal legislation passed for the U.S. GAO to conduct a cost-benefits analysis of the proposed civilian housing at NWS Earle. However, we continue to spin our wheels in Trenton about companion state legislation - even when the responsible measure we support (S762) unanimously passed the full House and a Senate committee last session, only to be held up because of party politics.

Contrary to what we anticipated following S762's latest passage on Thursday by the current Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, now we learn that the bill will not go to the full Senate for a vote, but is now referred to the Senate's Budget and Appropriations Committee, which we understand will meet next week - and where, for a 4th or 5th time in Trenton alone, NOPE - ALL volunteers with full-time jobs, family responsibilities, etc. - will need to commit more time to testify for the same darned measure.

New Jerseyans had better cross their fingers and hope the GAO study exposes the obvious flaws of the Laurelwood EIS (i.e. Department of Navy's plan to turn Laurelwood housing into unrestricted rental units to civilians), because our elected leaders in Trenton cannot figure out which was is up or down. Candidly, if and when S762 passes and is signed into law by Governor Christie, it will probably be too late; the study will NOT produce any results until at least six months AFTER Laurelwood can be rented to civilian tenants.

The intent of S762 (formerly known as S3017 until Mr. Codey and others politicized the issue during the 2008-09 session) was to simply delay required DEP and DOT permits (to the DoN and its housing developer Laurelwood Homes, LLC) until our own Treasurer could conduct a cost-benefits study of what NOPE clearly sees as at least a $300-$500 million (or more) unfunded federal mandate on New Jerseyans. More or less, NJ saying "wait a second, Uncle Sam, let's take a look at your plan and how it impacts us financially."

That's right, NJ - the DoN wants you to foot the half-a-billion-dollar bill for its own bad housing contracts, while at the same time compromising your security. Our leaders in Trenton, however, fail to recognize the urgency of this matter, and instead will move S762 to another committee for review, and then likely to the House for its two cents (after the House passed the earlier version of the bill by 76-0 in 2009).

Ah, efficiency at its finest in Trenton. Nonetheless, NOPE will be there - AGAIN - to testify for S762 if need be on the community's behalf. Do not worry. We will always watch our community's back.