Freeholders oppose plan for civilians to live at Earle

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By Mark Rosman
Staff Writer

The Monmouth County Board of Freeholders has weighed in on the issue of civilians being permitted to live in housing on Naval Weapons Station Earle.

The sprawling base lies in portions of several Monmouth County municipalities.

At a meeting on Oct. 27, the freeholders passed a resolution opposing a proposal that would permit the general public to use housing units at Earle. The resolution states that Earle “has been described by the military as ‘the Navy’s premier ordnance transshipment facility.’ ”

The freeholders said that “recent terror attacks, such as the 2009 shooting in Fort Hood, Texas, as well as attempted terrorist attacks, such as the 2007 plot concerning Fort Dix, New Jersey, highlight the need for utmost diligence and precaution at our military bases.”

In conclusion, the freeholders said they “do not find it to be in the best interests and safety of county taxpayers to permit members of the general public to use housing located at Earle. … (the freeholders) strongly oppose the proposal …”

Several months ago, the U.S. Navy confirmed that since 2004, Balfour Beatty Communities has owned and managed the housing on Earle through a Public Private Venture (PPV) partnership with the Navy.

Under the PPV agreement, 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,” according to a Navy spokesman.

Preferred referrals are active duty families; unaccompanied military members; National Guard and reservists; civil service employees; military retirees; and civil service retirees, according to the Navy.

Before an unaffiliated civilian would be authorized to live in the PPV housing, Balfour Beatty Communities would conduct a criminal history background check and a financial and credit report on the individual, according to the Navy.

If the individual passes the initial screening, the Navy would conduct an additional security background check prior to approving access to the base. Approved unaffiliated civilians would be issued an ID card that would be scanned each time the person enters the base, just as with all base personnel, according to the Navy.

Area representatives, including state Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth), have opposed the idea of civilians living on the base. Beck said she does not believe “that allowing non-military personnel on the base is a workable policy to ensure our area’s safety.”

Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) said, “The first question is how will (civilians) be properly and fully vetted? The second question is how will they be properly and fully vetted?”