By CAROL COMEGNO
Work on the battleship USS New Jersey museum is not over, even though the famed ship has arrived at its final resting place.
Contractors will continue to work on the ship's operational systems, new pier and visitor center.
And even after the ship opens, some work will continue. The renovation project already has cost more than $20 million in public and private funds.
"The ship itself is always going to be a work in progress," said Patricia Jones, co-chairwoman of the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit group that owns the ship.
The vintage ship, which saw its first conflict during World War II, is having a new air conditioning system installed and tested. Directional signs, historic photographs and narrative explanations for visitors are being put into place.
The nearly 60-year-old ship has been restored to its configuration in the 1980s after missiles were added and some conventional gun mounts eliminated.
Whenever the ship opens, visitors will see work continuing on the pier. On the 200-foot walkway leading to it, workmen will begin laying red brick this fall. They also will erect two elevator towers for the disabled, one at the front of the ship and one toward the rear, and will place sentinel light markers and benches along the walkway.
The public tour now planned will be guided. Tour guides stationed in various locations will give information about the ship and the experiences of the former crews. The tour will take visitors up several levels above the main deck and two levels below it.
The tour includes the admiral's bridge; flag officer quarters; bunking areas; the main deck level outside; the ward room and radio room on the inside of that level; and the 16-inch and 5-inch gun mounts. Below deck, visitors can see the galley where food was prepared; the mess hall for the enlisted; rows of stacked bunks in berthing areas; and the ship's store.
The alliance is awaiting approval by the state Legislature of an additional $7.2 million grant proposed by acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco. No floor action has been taken on the bill, which was introduced 20 months ago.
Plans call for the alliance to replace the teak deck, which has been sanded and patched, and open the mechanical areas such as the engine rooms and the machine and carpenters' shops. A larger visitor center on land also has been proposed, but there is no money yet to build it or to replace the teak deck.
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