TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Ellen Karcher and Joseph Kyrillos which would create the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority and economically prepare the region for the federally-mandated closure of Fort Monmouth, was approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee today, by a vote of 5-0.
“For the municipalities surrounding Fort Monmouth, the announcement that the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) Commission was closing down the base was absolutely devastating,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “For so long, the region’s economy has been dependent on the Fort to sustain it, and without proper planning, we will not be able to survive life without Fort Monmouth. However, with a panel of experts overseeing our fiscal destiny, and balancing the needs of the region, I know we can be ready for the challenges ahead.”
“I am pleased that a bipartisan coalition of legislators has chosen to act on the initiative to create a statutory framework for the future of the Fort Monmouth region,” said Senator Kyrillos, R-Monmouth and Middlesex. “This legislation fulfills the principles I laid out shortly after the fort closing was announced; that it was essential to have legislation to guide the complex process for determining the future of the fort, and that there must be a broad-based partnership between State, county and local officials, as well as involvement from private sector leaders.”
The bill, S-1472, would establish the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority in the Department of the Treasury. The Authority would be responsible for developing and implementing an economic conversion and revitalization plan for the Fort Monmouth property. The panel would include the mayors of the three municipalities that have a direct stake in the property — Tinton Falls, Eatontown and Oceanport — as well as members appointed by the Governor, a local business representative, and State representatives with expertise in labor issues, environmental issues, and redevelopment and real estate issues.
“We’re assembling the best and the brightest to steer the Fort Monmouth area to a new tomorrow,” said Senator Karcher. “The Revitalization Authority is going to have to balance the many needs of the region, including residential space, retail and office space, open space preservation and economic opportunities. I am confident that at the end of the day, the panel we’re bringing together will have the tools to deal with whatever we throw at them.”
“The closure of Fort Monmouth will present many challenges in the years ahead in terms of economic development, job creation, smart growth and environmental protection,” said Senator Kyrillos. “Neither the State, nor any one municipality or county has all the answers, and this legislation will serve to balance interests in a cooperative manner.”
Senator Karcher also noted that the Revitalization Authority would be governed by strict ethics regulations to ensure that redevelopment is accomplished without corruption. Additionally, the Authority would have to comply with the State’s “pay-to-play” restrictions that prohibit the agency from contracting with any business entity for more than $17,500 if the entity has made a contribution to any member of the Authority, or to the State, county or municipal party of any member sitting on the Authority.
“We need to insulate this process against the corruption that has marred many developments in the past, in Monmouth County and throughout the State,” said Senator Karcher. “Fort Monmouth’s plight cannot be an excuse for unscrupulous developers to get rich quick. We need to make sure that redevelopment that benefits the region is the primary and only goal of the Revitalization Authority, not the personal enrichment of anyone involved.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.