Published in The Coast Star December 14, 2003
Despite a tough battle, the Camp Evans closure appeared to be going smoothly for quite awhile, as the transferring of property was expected to approach completion sometime in 2007.
Yet, InfoAge Science and History Center hit a bit of a bump in the road recently when the new contractor appointed by the Department of Army Base Realignment and Closure [BRAC] announced it may not be upholding some of the agreements for improvement to the buildings that were made between the Army and the township.
Wall Township, which has received 164 of the 181 acres that have been transferred from Camp Evans, gave the property to InfoAge to control and use as a science and history learning center.
Up until this month, Chuck Appleby acted as the BRAC Environmental Coordinator for Camp Evans. According to Henry Kearney, spokesman for the Army at Fort Monmouth, because Camp Evans is considered a subinstallation of Fort Monmouth, representatives from Fort Monmouth oversaw its closure, although it was actually the Department of Army BRAC that appointed Mr. Appleby to his position as environmental coordinator. Yet, this past month, the Department of Army BRAC announced it would take over and oversee the remainder of the closure.
It was at this time that Mr. Appleby was reassigned to another position at Fort Monmouth, and Joseph Pearson of Calibre Construction, a contractor, took over to perform the duties of the BRAC environmental coordinator. This change in oversight and personnel has brought about some delay in the continuation of repairs at the site.
Since the transfer of oversight, Wall Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin said Mr. Pearson has told Wall Township that some of the expected improvements and repairs being done on the Camp Evans site were beyond what BRAC would normally do when closing a base.
“When they came in they realized there were certain things being done that wouldn’t ordinarily be done in a BRAC situation,” said Mr. McLaughlin.
Mr. Pearson told a reporter he was instructed not to comment on the matter.
“Their attitude was that they basically wanted to cut and run,” said Bob McAllan, community co-chair for the Restoration Advisory Board for Camp Evans.
According to Fred Carl, director of InfoAge, many of the possible cancelled agreements pertain to repairing damage that was created by “mismanagement” by the Army. An example of this, he said, occurred in the winter of 2000 when all the electricity in certain buildings was turned off. The electricity was needed to heat the building and as a result of this, and the water pipes not being drained, several pipes burst, causing water damage and mold in the buildings.
Mr. Carl said InfoAge had to seek help from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who told
the Army it needed to fix the problems that resulted from such mismanagement, at which time an agreement was made for the Army to do so.
While many of the moldy, damaged walls were removed, so were the electrical panels and telephone systems, which were supposed to be kept, said Mr. Carl.
“This is bad for InfoAge because our future is in those buildings and for us to go in and pay for all that damage from our donations and donor gifts… that is really uncalled for,” said Mr. Carl.
Last week Township Mr. McLaughlin, Assistant Township Administrator Kate Elia and Mr. McAllen met with Mr. Pearson and explained that the work being done at Camp Evans was in accordance with agreements that had been made between the township and the Army. According to Mr. McLaughlin, the new personnel were unaware of these agreements.
“They had no idea what was going on,” he said.
The Department of Army BRAC representative agreed to look at all the agreements that were made between the Army and the township and “get up to speed,” on what was going on at Camp Evans, said Mr. McLaughlin.
According to Mr. McAllan, the new BRAC appointees wanted months to look over the agreements between the Army and the township, but the township gave them just until the first week of January.
“It’s kind of reached the point of being ridiculous,” said Mr. McAllan, stressing that the closing of Camp Evans has been going on for more than 12 years.
“We are hopeful that it’s just a matter of bureaucratic turnout,” said Mr. McLaughlin, and Mr. McAllan agreed he would give BRAC the benefit of the doubt, but said action would be taken if they refused to comply with the agreements.
Mr. Carl said he was disappointed that this is the seventh time that the township has had to battle with the Army to “save Camp Evans and help InfoAge.”
“This is a sad state of affairs when your biggest obstacle in saving an Army site and making an Army memorial is Army contractors,” he added.
Mr. Carl said the first battle was when the BRAC office blocked InfoAge’s nomination to place Camp Evans Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. Other tights were for sewer replacements and to have contaminated sheds tested. In 2001 was the fight to get electricity turned on during winter after water and heating pipes burst, which led to building damage. Electricity was needed for the oil heat in the building to work, and without it the water in the pipes froze and burst. In 2004 BRAC threatened to auction off the historic district at Camp Evans.
“Hopefully BRAC will come back and say that they will meet our obligations, but if they don’t then InfoAge is really backed in a corner,” said Mr. Carl.
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