Local representatives oppose civilian housing at NWS Earle


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By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

Area representatives are voicing concern about the possibility of civilians living in housing on Naval Weapons Station Earle.

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NWS Earle lies in portions of several Monmouth County municipalities. K-8 students who live on the base attend school in the Tinton Falls School District. High school age students who live on the base attend Colts Neck High School in the Freehold Regional High School District.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), representatives of Congressman Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, Colts Neck Township Committeeman Michael Fitzgerald and Tinton Falls School District Board of Education President Peter Karavites met recently with commanding officer Capt. Jay Steingold of NWS Earle to be briefed on the proposal, according to a press release.

In response to an inquiry from Greater Media Newspapers about the matter, a Navy spokesman said Steingold met with Beck and the others to discuss the potential of non-U.S. Department of Defense affiliated civilians (also referred to as unaffiliated civilians) living in privatized family housing at NWS Earle.

Since 2004, Balfour Beatty Communities has owned and managed the housing on-base through a Public Private Venture (PPV) partnership with the Navy.

Steingold explained that under the PPV agreement with the Navy, Balfour Beatty Communities is authorized to lease housing to unaffiliated civilians only when there is not enough demand for housing from military families and other “preferred referrals.”

Preferred referrals are, in order of priority: active duty families; unaccompanied military members; National Guard and reservists; civil service employees; military retirees; and civil service retirees. This priority list is contained in all Navy agreements with its PPV partners and is not unique to the Navy’s PPV agreement with Balfour Beatty Communities, according to the Navy.

Before an unaffiliated civilian is authorized to live in the PPV housing, Balfour Beatty Communities conducts a criminal history background check, as well as a financial and credit report on the unaffiliated civilians, according to the Navy. If the individual(s) pass this initial screening, the Navy conducts an additional thorough security background check prior to approving access to the base.

Approved unaffiliated civilians would be issued an ID card that is scanned each time they enter the base, just as with all base personnel, according to the Navy.

Navy representatives said there are no unaffiliated civilians leasing PPV units on NWS Earle at this time, however, Balfour Beatty Communities continues to market to all potential tenants in the effort to maximize occupancy of its housing.

The Navy said it will continue to work closely with Balfour Beatty Communities to market and increase occupancy of preferred referrals, in particular.

“The Navy enjoys a long-standing, good relationship with the surrounding community and we will continue to keep our community leaders informed on the status of our on-base housing occupancy matters,” Steingold said. “The safety and security of the installation, its residents and employees remains my highest priority and we will continue to maintain that standard throughout this process.”

The officials who attended the meeting voiced opposition regarding the plan and said they have received a commitment from the Navy chain of command for a follow-up meeting on the proposal, according to the press release.

“I am opposed, in the strongest possible terms, to the Navy’s plan allowing civilians to use NWS Earle housing,” Beck said. “The current proposal involving members of the general public to be granted access to an active military weapons installation is a dangerous one and I will fight tirelessly against it. … I don’t believe that allowing non-military personnel on the base is a workable policy to ensure our area’s safety.”

“Given the proximity to military personnel, civilians and their families – and especially in light of the ‘Fort Dix Five’ terrorist plot of a few years ago – the first question is how will (civilians) be properly and fully vetted? The second question is how will they be properly and fully vetted?” Smith asked.

According to the press release, Smith helped lead the fight in 2010 when the Navy sought to open a different housing community, the Laurelwood housing units, on the base to unscreened and unaffiliated civilians. The Navy eventually abandoned the plan.

Burry said that “residents have fought the privatization of Earle housing before and we will continue to do so. It is not in the area’s best interest for civilians to be housed at an active military site.”

“Colts Neck has many questions regarding the viability of this proposal and the impact it will have on our municipality. We have many unanswered questions and are adamantly opposed to all forms of the suggestion that civilians should be housed at NWS Earle,” Fitzgerald said.

“I am vehemently opposed to the current proposal to allow civilians to obtain housing at Earle and will work with my colleagues on the Tinton Falls Board of Education to explore all possible avenues to fight this proposal,” Karavites said.

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