Published in The Coast Star on March 8, 2001

Page 17
Web note: The actual transfer of the Marconi Hotel and buildings in area B did not occur until 2004

Township continues battle with Army for sewers

By Desiree A. DiCorcia
     After an eight-year remediation effort, the Wall Township Committee is finally making preparations to receive Camp Evans from the Army.
     The 208-acre camp was declared surplus property by the Army in 1993. At this time, the Army embarked upon a remediation effort at the camp, which is just now coming to a close. After the effort is complete, the property will be conveyed to Wall Township for recreational and educational purposes. A 60-acre parcel of the camp is also being transferred to Brookdale Community College for a satellite campus.
     At last Wednesday’s executive meeting, the committee discussed adopting a resolution/certificate of authority authorizing an application to the Department of the Army for Transfer of Surplus Property.
     Township Administrator Joseph L. Verruni explained that the resolution will begin the process of transferring the property to Wall.
     “This will authorize us to apply to the Army for transfer of B and C under the Historic Preservation Grant to obtain the Marconi Hotel, the H buildings, and the antenna south of the complex,” said Mr. Verruni.
     Areas B and C of Camp Evans contain the historic buildings at the site. This area was declared a New Jersey Historic District by the State of New Jersey Historic Preservation Office on March 5, 2000.
     Mr. Verruni explained that the transfer of the property as a historic site does not limit the township’s ability to use the buildings. However, the township cannot remove the buildings.
     The township already has plans to reuse one of the H buildings as the future home of the InfoAge Learning Center [ILC]. The goal of the ILC is to create an interactive hands-on science center where visitors can experience science and technology. The center will also serve as a place where corporations, professional groups, individual volunteers and the military can contribute to science education while preserving the historic site.
     While Mr. Verruni explained that the township is free to use the buildings for this purpose and other uses, he advised the committee that the Army did not remove the lead-based paint from the buildings as part of its remediation effort.
     “Let’s face it, it sounds bad, but any building pre-1975 has leadbased paint,” said Mr. Verruni.
     The Army also does not intend to transfer the site with a working sewer system. The Army removed the sewer system at the base because it found traces of mercury in the system. However, the Army did not replace the sewer lines despite the outcry by the Camp Evans Restoration Advisory Board [RAB].
     At the time, the RAB scolded the Army for performing only half of the necessary work to meet its transfer criteria and made a motion that the Army consider reconnecting the historic buildings to make them re-usable.
     The RAB argued that the Army’s own Base Re-Use and Implementation Manual requires it to transfer buildings which are slated for re-use to be functioning. The RAB argued that this meant having a sewer system. Without sewers, it argued, the buildings cannot be reused.
     In its defense, the Army insisted that under the terms of its reuse manual it cannot make any improvements to the base. The Army argued that the new sewer system would be an improvement.
While the RAB was troubled with this argument, representatives from the Army indicated that there was simply not enough money left to finish the project.
     During last Wednesday’s meeting, Committee woman Mary Burne commented, “The Army removed all the sewer lines and we feel they should be replaced. The buildings will be useless unless there are sewers in them:”
     “They said they were going to give the property to us. We are not asking them for something new,” added Mrs. Burne.
     Upon receiving the Army’s decision, the RAB asked Township Attorney Roger McLaughlin to review the legality of the decision. During the meeting, Mr. McLaughlin gave the committee an update on the township’s position.
     “We are still fighting that battle,” said Mr. McLaughlin. The attorney explained that the Army has rendered the existing buildings essentially useless by removing the sewers and cutting off the heat and electricity to the buildings. He also cited a lack of security at the site which has led to some of the buildings being vandalized.
     Mr. Verruni indicated that the township has tried to contact the Army regarding the matter, but received no response.
     In light of this, Mr. McLaughlin has written a letter to Representative Chris Smith, stating that the Army has given the township the “runaround” and has “not lived up to its responsibility with regards to sewers or maintenance.”
     Mr. McLaughlin explained that the Army was supposed to “maintain and turn the buildings over for immediate use, but has not maintained them and has damaged the buildings.”
     Mr. McLaughlin referred to the Army’s justification for not replacing the sewers as “laughable,” stating, “no one believes that except for them:’
     “We are not getting what we bargained to get. Before we take it, they need to put it back the way it was,” said Mr. McLaughlin.

page created March 31, 2001