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

June 10, 1998

Battleship commission begins to weigh anchor

It's good to see sites other than Bayonne considered for the battleship New Jersey.

We're happy to see the USS New Jersey Battleship Commission will be visiting Camden, at last. It will inspect the obvious, logical choice to berth the historic ship.

Once members see the Philadelphia skyline and the Benjamin Franklin Bridge, they'll know it is the best backdrop for the most decorated ship in Navy history.

Besides, the New Jersey was built at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and was christened into the Delaware River. Many who helped build it still live in this area.

Only a month ago, Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina, R-Monmouth, who chairs the commission, said it had 'made the decision on Bayonne. There is no way you would be in time to change positions because anyone else can apply to the Navy for the ship and we could lose it altogether.'

Now that the federal defense budget includes language giving the ship to New Jersey, that argument's sunk.

Meeting Wednesday, the commission entertained proposals from the cities attempting to berth the ship: Bayonne, Camden and Jersey City.

'They're all on a fairly level field,' said Azzolina. 'I want to be fair to everybody.'

There are signs Camden is gaining ground. In response to requests by Sen. John Matheussen, R-Gloucester, among others, a Pennsville resident was appointed to the commission as its only South Jersey representative.

Joseph Dyer is a former Salem County Republican freeholder, county administrator and Navy veteran of the Korean conflict.

He attended his first meeting Wednesday and his appointment leaves six vacancies on the 22-member commission.

'I was first told, when I was selected for this job, that all the decisions had been made but since then, I've been told everything really is up in the air,' Dyer said.

Azzolina said the commission will make its decision in 30 to 45 days. Even that's not final, though.

According to Matheussen, the legislation creating the commission limits it to 'assistance and advice' in planning and fund raising. 'The commission never had the authority to decide where the site was,' Matheussen said.

The Legislature and Gov. Whitman have the final say.

Here's the kicker:

Whitman just placed Camden under a special review board with sweeping powers to oversee the city's finances. The state finances about 60 percent of Camden's budget, because the city has so few resources. Part of the review board's responsibility will be to find ways to bring money into the city.

Mayor Milt Milan has his sights set on the Waterfront to improve the city's fiscal condition. Camden's renaissance depends on additional development there. A floating museum would fit the ticket.

It only makes sense, then, that Whitman and her staff should join the effort to bring the USS New Jersey to Camden.

Readers who want to get involved should clip the following coupon and mail it to us. Please include your name, address and phone number. We'll deliver them to the battleship commission and make sure the governor knows about it.

USS New Jersey Home Page



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