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


Alliance seeks bids for `Big J' conversion


By CAROL COMEGNO
Courier-Post Staff
CAMDEN

The Home Port Alliance has begun seeking bids for pier construction and ship restoration in a $22 million project to convert the battleship USS New Jersey into a museum and memorial on the Camden Waterfront.

At a Wednesday night meeting, trustees of the nonprofit alliance authorized publication of requests for proposals to build a pier, fix the historic ship and remove hazardous material from its interior.

"This is a significant milestone and an action that needed to be taken as soon as possible to get the major elements of the project going, because the community out there wants to see the ship," said David McGuigan of Haddonfield, a retired Navy captain and alliance president.

The board also set a goal of opening the ship by Labor Day 2001, although plaza walkway exhibits and some of the ship's interior may not be ready. The board already has awarded a nearly $1 million contract for project management to Hill International of Willingboro.

In other business, the board appointed trustee Norman Sooycq as liaison to the USS New Jersey Veterans Inc., a group of more than 1,200 former crew members who served aboard the ship from 1942 to 1991.

"Unfortunately, most of this group only ever heard it was going to go to North Jersey, and some are upset with the Navy decision to put it in Camden. But they all have their heart in this highly decorated ship and I am sure they have some good ideas that can help us," said Sooy, a Vietnam veteran who also is Camden County's director of veterans affairs.

"The New Jersey is one ship and we all have one objective, which is to make it the best it can be. I know I can establish a good working relationship between our group and theirs and allay their concerns."

Wednesday also marked the first meeting for the newest member of the board, Frank Fulbrook of Camden.

Fulbrook, a city activist, was seated as president of the Camden Empowerment Zone Corporation, which has committed $1 million to the battleship project. It was Fulbrook who spearheaded the financial commitment two years ago - the first group to commit money to show the Navy the area was serious about bringing the ship to Camden.

"I am very excited to have this responsibility. The challenge for me at this point is to help to make the battleship a successful urban revitalization opportunity," he said.




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