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Thursday, August 11, 2005Past Issues - S | M | T | W | T | F | S
 
South Jersey

Friday, February 16, 2001

Cost of `Big J' pier has risen to $10M


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  • Complete USS New Jersey coverage
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  • By CAROL COMEGNO
    Courier-Post Staff
    CAMDEN

    The pier cost for the battleship USS New Jersey has risen to at least $10 million - more than twice as much money as the Home Port Alliance now has to construct a dock on the downtown Waterfront.

    Home Port Alliance officials confirmed the new estimate, which is forcing the group to review its financial commitments before deciding its next step in planning the museum. The project involves ship restoration, the T- shaped, 400-foot pier and a landside museum.

    The alliance has been accelerating pier design and construction in order to meet a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 2 so that the historic warship can be open to the public as soon as possible. The alliance had hoped to award pier construction and museum architect contracts by the end of the month.

    "We are trying to confirm all the numbers and identify our funding sources and seeing whether we can use revenue marked for one thing for another area," said Patricia Jones, co-chairwoman of the nonprofit alliance.

    "We've got to have a pier to have the ship in place," said Jones, noting that the alliance has a couple of weeks to resolve the funding shortfall.

    Jones said the preliminary cost estimate of $5 million, which was proposed when the alliance applied to the Navy for the ship in 1999, did not involve fast-tracking, two dockside elevators and a more complex and even stronger mooring design recently approved by the alliance.

    In a related development, Delaware River Port Authority vice chairman Glenn Paulsen, who is also an alliance trustee, has said no more money controlled by his agency will be spent on the project until a budget plan that " makes sense" is in place.

    "To obligate funds that the HPA doesn't have ... would demonstrate a complete lack of fiscal responsibility," he wrote in a Feb. 9 letter obtained by the Courier-Post.

    "I will not violate my fiduciary responsibility. The Home Port Alliance should not under any circumstances enter into a contract for which they cannot pay."

    The DRPA has committed $2 million for operating costs for the alliance, but is also the conduit for $6 million committed by the Legislature and more than $2 million from the state Department of Transportation.

    Through board spokesman Liz Thomas of Ellipsis Marketing, Paulsen declined to elaborate on the letter or to speculate whether the DRPA would cover the shortfall for the pier with a separate donation.

    Jones said neither downscaling the pier nor delaying the opening of the ship is being considered at this time.

    Another hurdle to plans for pier construction are state restrictions on pile-driving between March 15 and June 30, the shad and herring spawning season. The alliance needs the state Department of Environmental Protection to grant an exception to the rule in order to finish the pier before September. However, Larry Baier, chief of the Office of Dredging, said he has not yet received an alliance request and that the project must be justified.

    About $4.7 million has been committed for the design and construction of a new pier - $3.2 million by Camden County and $1.5 million from the state Department of Transportation.

    None of the other $11 million in state aid and other revenue is earmarked for the pier, and another $7.2 million in proposed legislation by acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco is intended for more below-deck tours and for the landside museum.

    The alliance was updated on the pier cost at its Feb. 7 private meeting. That led to another special meeting Thursday that was held privately, as are all the board meetings.



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