By EILEEN STILWELL
The Delaware River Port Authority, which holds the purse
strings for turning the USS New Jersey into a museum,
authorized spending $8 million Thursday to begin
construction on a permanent home for the historic ship.
The money will allow the Home Port Alliance, the
nonprofit group created to oversee the battleship's
conversion to a museum, to hire a contractor to build a
pier and visitors center at Broadway terminal. The Alliance'
s goal is to open the ship to the public in September.
Also, in an unexpected announcement Thursday, the
Alliance said in a press release it would open monthly
meetings of its board of trustees to the public beginning
The time and place of the first open meeting will be
announced in advance.
In a private meeting Wednesday, the Alliance selected a
contractor pending the release of funds from DRPA, but no
name was released.
"The ability of the Home Port Alliance to open the USS
New Jersey to the public on a timely basis will only help
to enhance the image of the Camden Waterfront as a vibrant
and interesting tourist destination," said Glenn Paulsen,
DRPA's vice chairman. "We're glad to help."
Of the $8 million, $2 million is a DRPA grant and the
rest is state money from the Department of Military and
Veterans Affairs. Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman
authorized DRPA to handle the money.
Paulsen, who also is an Alliance trustee, handed out a
statement from the Alliance saying the cost of preparing
the ship's exterior and a berth is now at $18.2 million.
Though the cost is higher than expected, the money is
available from a variety of public sources, the Alliance
In other business, DRPA approved an interest rate hedge
agreement with regard to $867 million in bonds, which
represents a portion of the Authority's $1.28 billion debt.
Rather than refinance some of its bonds with a more
favorable interest rate, the Authority this month will seek
bids from financial institutions to swap a fixed rate for a
DRPA Treasurer Marc Krassan said the Authority could
save up to $38 million in interest payments at "minimal
risk" if the transaction is complete.