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By CAROL COMEGNO
The USS New Jersey will not move on Labor Day because its $11 million new pier isn't ready.
No date has been set for the grand opening of the battleship, which the nonprofit Home Port Alliance is converting into a museum.
Alliance leaders expressed disappointment over Wednesday' s announcement, but said they hope to meet their target of a September opening.
"I am temporarily disappointed, but at the same time very enthusiastic that we will be opening the ship in another few weeks all due to the herculean efforts of the volunteers fixing the ship and contractors all working at an incredible pace," said state Sen. John Matheussen, R- Gloucester, co-chairman of the alliance.
Alliance members will meet Wednesday to receive a construction update and, they hope, set a new date for moving the warship to its final mooring near downtown Camden.
The ship's public debut will come "shortly after" it is moved to its T-shaped pier behind the Tweeter Center, according to an alliance press release.
This is the second time the alliance has been forced to push back plans to move the ship. It originally had hoped to move the ship up the Delaware River this week and open it on Labor Day. Official word of the delay came Wednesday after the project's management firm, Hill International of Willingboro, advised the alliance's construction committee that the pier won't be ready on time for several reasons:
The contractor has been unable to make up time lost when a storm in the Gulf of Mexico delayed a barge delivery of pilings by about five days this month.
Last week, the contractor encountered a hard material like bedrock below the river bottom, slowing the pile-driving process.
This week the contractor brought in different equipment to help it drive the piles 70 to 80 feet below the river floor. Once that occurs, the hollow piles must be filled with concrete, which requires up to a week to set properly. Only then can the piles securely moor the 45,000-ton warship.
In addition to the pier construction, refurbishing work continues aboard the ship, two miles downriver at the South Jersey Port Corp.'s Broadway Terminal. Contractors are working on major items, such as sanitary, water and air- conditioning systems.
Bob Hannigan, foreman for contractor Delta T of Runnemede, said his company needs two to three more weeks to prepare the air-conditioning system before it can be fully tested. His workers have installed a cooling tower on the ship's superstructure and are updating the system's four main air-conditioning units.
Meanwhile, battleship volunteers, former crew members and their families will be cheering on the Navy football team tonight as guests at a game against Temple University at Franklin Field in Philadelphia. Temple is sponsoring a battleship night at the 7 p.m. game to benefit the restoration of the battleship. Temple will donate $1 of each ticket to the alliance and has offered discounted tickets for military veterans.
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