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The Home Port Alliance awarded more than $5 million in final contracts Wednesday night to complete a pier and restore the battleship USS New Jersey for a museum - hopefully in time for a September opening in Camden.
The nonprofit group also agreed to accept $950,000 from the Camden Empowerment Zone Corp. to build a temporary visitor center.
All votes were in private, although the construction contract actions were reported at the public portion of a meeting held at the Burlington County College campus here.
All contracts were given to the lowest bidder, said state Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, co-chairman of the alliance.
"The board is making every effort to get the ship open as soon as possible and working overtime to try to make the Sept. 2 opening date," said the other co-chairman, Patricia Jones.
A Blackwood firm, AP Construction, received two contracts totaling over $3 million - $2.3 million for topside work on the pier on Camden's Waterfront and $742,000 for underground utilities for the visitor center and ship.
The board awarded two contracts to Delta T of Runnemede - $ 1 million for heating and air conditioning work and $414, 000 to repair restrooms and other facilities aboard the nearly 60-year-old ship.
MC Painting Corp. of Philadelphia will paint the exterior of the 887-foot warship for $950,000.
The ship's teak deck will be cleaned because the alliance does not yet have enough money to restore it.
"It's great and we can't wait until the ship opens," said Sam Ballinger, 80, of Burlington Township, one of nearly 50 people at the meeting. "I like anything military even though I was an infantryman for Gen. Patton in World War II and not in the Navy."
The alliance will have spent close to $18 million on the project - all from public sources - by the time the ship opens, said alliance trustee Philip Rowan.
Also on Wednesday, members of Camden's planning board expressed concern about parking and traffic patterns at the planned museum, especially when overlapping events occur at the nearby Tweeter Center, Wiggins Waterfront Park and Campbell's Field.
The alliance outlined its plan for the visitor center for the board, which has no approval authority because the land is owned by Camden County. Board members suggested the alliance prepare a traffic and parking plan with other Waterfront attractions to avoid gridlock.
Alliance consultant Dennis Yoder, project engineer for Remington and Vernick, said the museum will be served by 5, 200 parking spots - 3,600 near the Tweeter Center and 1,600 at the adjacent Beckett Street Marine Terminal of the South Jersey Port Corp.