The 12th District Legislators would like to voice their disappointment in and opposition to the decision of the Department of the Navy for its decision to permit the plan for the privatization of 300 housing-units on U.S. Naval Weapon Station Earle to continue unimpeded.
“This is a contract that the Navy never should have entered,” said Senator Jennifer Beck. “This is a high security facility and allowing unfettered access to non-military personnel is a big mistake.”
The access to the housing development, known as Laurelwood Housing, would follow Alternative Alignment 4, as outlined in the Navy’s Environmental Impact Study, which was released late last year.
“How civilians will access Earle is far less troubling than the fact that the Navy is not at all concerned about the security risks of allowing unimpeded access for civilians on to a Naval Weapon Station,” said Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande. “It is truly disturbing how cavalier the navy has been on this issue, and how wrong it is that the Navy has so far refused to even discuss a buy-out with the developer, despite statements that she may be open to one. Now, instead of a one time buy-out, the navy will be expending money to construct a new access road, as well as additional on-going, round-the-clock security.”
According to the decision, because there was no “buy-out” provision in the Navy’s agreement with the developer it was not an acceptable alternative. However, Casagrande said that the Navy has refused to dialogue with the developer, despite clear communication from her that she would be open to the possibility of a buy-out.
Currently, a small percentage of the housing units at the complex are utilized by military families whose children receive educational services through the Tinton Falls School District. In 2010, the U.S. Navy plans to open 300 vacant apartments to civilian tenants which could result in an influx of potentially 500 students. The recent decision by the Department of the Navy states that Tinton Falls will also be responsible to educate the new civilian children that Laurelwood will bring to the base, without the federal assistance it enjoys from the military children currently enrolled in its district.
“It is an outrage how inattentive the Navy has been to the concerns of the people who will have to live in the towns that will bear the burden of heightened security concerns, as well as an increased burden on both infrastructure and schools,” said Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon. “Neither Tinton Falls nor Colts Neck has the capacity to take an additional 500 students into their schools, with or without payment from the federal government.”
“The decision that came down today claims that the security wouldn’t be impacted,” said Beck, “but it also claims that the schools will not be negatively impacted, and they’ve been wrong about those numbers every step of the way.”
The Environmental Impact Study contained several assertions which are highly questionable; for example they estimate that the 300 housing units on the base will only produce 145 school age children, when an adjacent housing complex with only 73 housing units has 92 school age children.