By EILEEN STILWELL
Promises, promises. Ten months ago, the Delaware River Port Authority advanced $6 million for the restoration of the Battleship New Jersey with the expectation that the state would reimburse the bistate agency.
At that time, DRPA Vice Chairman Glenn Paulsen, a powerful Burlington County Republican with strong ties to then-acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, was confidant the state would come through. DiFrancesco, in fact, had introduced a bill to provide the money. Payback was just a matter of time.
Things changed dramatically on Tuesday - DiFrancesco's last day in office - when the outgoing governor slashed an appropriation for the battleship from an anticipated $7.2 million to $3.5 million. Of that, $1.2 million is earmarked for the Home Port Alliance, a nonprofit organization that manages the ship, which is berthed on the Camden Waterfront.
If Home Port Alliance takes its full share, DRPA's return will be $2.3 million on a $6 million loan.
In addition to the loan passed in the form of a resolution by DRPA's board in March, the authority approved a $2 million grant for the historic ship, expecting it to be a major tourist attraction on the waterfront.
"We were really counting on that money," said Joseph Balzano, a trustee of the Home Port Alliance, on Wednesday after learning about the reduced appropriation. Nothing remains of the DRPA's money, which became part of an estimated $20 million budget to restore the ship and build a pier and visitors center.
Another trustee, Philip Norcross, said he is interested in an "expeditious disbursement of the funds."
Paulsen was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, DRPA spokesman Joseph Diemer seemed uncertain what will happen with less money to go around.
"We don't know what happened in Trenton," said Diemer. " But we will continue to pursue full reimbursement of the loan from the state."