Thursday, November 11, 2010

A heartfelt "Thank You" to our Veterans!

In addition to thanking the current forces in our nearby military bases and Veterans who have settled in our communities, on this Veterans Day we wish, in particular, to recognize the military service to our nation of Jim Sfayer, Fulton Wilcox and Ernie Janssen - three key members of NOPE's leadership. It has been an honor for many of us to have gotten to know these fine men and countless other veterans in our community.

We would like to note, too, that Col. Sfayer runs the Veterans Transition Initiative, a nonprofit organization providing legal assistance, benefits counseling, mentor support and workforce entry and adaptation to the private sector for all honorably discharged veterans. Please visit the VTI website about how you can become involved in what is proving to be a great grassroots endeavor.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NWS Earle $6.27m main gate upgrades underway

Lost in our disappointment over a vanilla GAO probe of "Section 8" military housing (focusing on the controversial Laurelwood complex at NWS Earle and a half-dozen others) was a release from Congressman Chris Smith on the October 29 groundbreaking of vital security enhancements to the Rt. 34 main gate in Colts Neck. However, this release should not be lost on NOPE supporters who saw the logic of our grassroots case from our beginnings 3 years ago and continued humble existence. The cases were intertwined.

Security at NWS Earle was the headline NOPE objection to the Department of Navy's ultimately ill-fated plan to rent, through 2040, 300 vacant Laurelwood townhouses to civilians, without any sort of background check or secure access. The DoN's plan necessitated construction of a new, unguarded access route of nearly 2 miles through the base, where anyone could come and go as they pleased.

NOPE saw this (i.e. a civilian free-for-all access route) as an obvious conflict to the Navy's stated need to fortify the main gate (i.e. making it harder for anyone...service personnel, contractors, delivery people, etc. to get on base) as an obvious conflict to its civilian housing proposal. 

Intriguingly, the civilian housing plan flew in the face of common sense as well, particularly when at the same time the Inspector General in early 2009 reported that Earle had a hard time keeping track of outsource guards responsible for supplementing military policing of the 11,000-acre ordnance base.  Admitting the error of its ways in planning to let 1,000 or more civilian residents live at a mission-critical military base housing high-powered munitions (all for the sake of getting out of a badly designed housing contract obligation), the DoN ultimately (to our satisfaction) withdrew its "Record of Decision" on this plan in April 2010. 

Now we merely await the parameters of the buyout and demolition of the Laurelwood complex.

In short, the Navy recognized the necessity of upgrades to the main gate access, and Congressman Smith helped secure the funding ($6.27 million) designed to "provide better anti-terrorism and force protection for the base, the personnel and the community," according to Mr. Smith.  The project is finally underway, with work scheduled for completion by October 2011, and perhaps signals NOPE is that much closer to closure over a long-running grassroots effort to protect the interests of our communities.