By Jay Cook |
Contract Allows for Shared Services on Nearly 12,000-Acre Base |
NWS EARLE – A first-of-its-kind covenant inked by the United States Navy and Monmouth County will allow for an expansion of shared services onto the East Coast’s top munitions outpost, officials announced last week.
The deal, dubbed as the Intergovernmental Support Agreement, permits Naval Weapons Station Earle (NWS Earle) to tap into Monmouth County’s expansive public works department for unimproved road and traffic light maintenance, storm repairs and snow removal, among other options.
The NWS Earle and Monmouth County agreement is the first accord between a county government and a military installation in the state, and the first ever agreement between a county government and the U.S. Navy.
“It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” said NWS Earle commanding officer, Capt. Pierre A. Fuller. “For the county, and for us.”
Using county resources will help “maintain the Navy’s key infrastructure and mission capabilities right here in Monmouth County while saving taxpayer dollars and extending our maintenance budget,” Fuller said.
The deal allows NWS Earle to spend up to $100,000 in each separate work contract, said Dennis Blazak, NWS Earle’s community plans and liaison officer. Those contracts could range from plowing snow along Normandy Road or electrical work for the approximately 1,000 buildings on the Navy base.
“From our point of view, we’re dealing with another governmental entity so there aren’t the issues of competitive pricing, bidding, that sort of stuff,” Blazak continued. “They’re presenting their work at their cost.”
Monmouth County Freeholder Director Thomas A. Arnone said this contract shows how the county’s shared service agreement program has expanded over the past seven years.
“This is now something that people all over the country will be looking at and saying ‘look at what Monmouth County has done here,’ ” said Arnone.
The county “won’t be looking to make money on the base and on the Navy,” Arnone added. Instead, the contract expenditures will offset the costs for any work provided.
This agreement comes after a bipartisan bill, A2514, was passed in the state legislature in February 2017. It permitted local governments to enter into shared service agreements with federal military installations across the Garden State. A federal statute passed through Washington in 2013 paved the way for similar interlocal agreements with the branches of the military.
Fuller, NWS Earle’s commanding officer, said one of the first contracts he wants to push through is for work on the traffic lights along Normandy Road – the 17-mile-long private road that stretches from Colts Neck to the base’s waterfront Leonardo section. There are seven points along Normandy Road which cross public roadways, several which pass through Middletown.
Some areas, like the crossing at East Road in Middletown, can be tricky to motorists. Overall, Normandy Road “tends to be a headache for a lot of folks,” Fuller said. “It’s a bit of an issue.”
Blazak said snowplowing and ice treatments on Normandy Road are critical. Not only is the federal roadway a means for transporting munitions, but it also is used by first responders and emergency services to bypass other busy roads.
Arnone said agreements with federal partners have been spotlighted locally since the closing of Fort Monmouth, the former U.S. Army base located in sections of Oceanport, Tinton Falls and Eatontown.
Much of the infrastructure fell into disrepair after the base shut down in 2011, Arnone said, and Monmouth County helped improve roads to the point of reopening CR-537, also known as the Avenue of Memories.
“Look at Fort Monmouth and ultimately what happened there,” he said. The closing was “devastating to Monmouth County. If we can some way or another be of assistance to make sure partnerships can grow, we’ll do that.”
NWS Earle was commissioned in 1943 to supply ammunition for American troops fighting overseas in World War II, specifically the D-Day invasions in France. Since then, it has armed ships heading out to Middle East conflicts like the Iraqi war. The 11,851-acre base spans six municipalities and is the largest weapons station on the East Coast.
“We’ve had a strong connection, we’ve been good neighbors and I hope that we continue that relationship,” said Monmouth County Freeholder Deputy Director Lillian G. Burry. “I know we will, particularly with this contract that we’re signing today.”
This article was first published in the May 31-June 7, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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