You are free to come to the monthly meetings of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, but frankly, says Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo, “You’ll find them boring and you won’t get a feel for what is going on.”
That is why the mayor held his second Fort Monmouth Update on Tuesday night for interested citizens to get the scoop on the 1,000-plus acre property set to shut down in 100 days.
Approximately 30 members of the public turned out to borough hall to hear Tarantolo’s take on the history of the Fort Monmouth closure process, its current state and a look into the future.Tarantolo led a frank discussion with the residents and wrapped up with a concise list of what is “eating at him” during this transition.
Mayor Gerry's top concerns as the base closure approaches
Patch will explore a few of those concerns here and more in future stories. Here’s the list:
- Closing is rapidly approaching.
- Environmental clean-up beyond the gate.
- Deviation from the FMERPA plan (that is, the original 2006 master plan).
- Planning and zoning effort – our role.
- The transition/caretaker plan.
- Asset security during transition.
- Super majority – are we protected?
- Continuity of FMERA board representation.
- Integrity of commitments made (by the board).
The mayor seemed most concerned over the third item, about maintaining the original plan, particularly in relation to job creation and quality of life.
Tarantolo said that he and the other mayors are the minorities on the board made up of government agency representatives and the governor’s appointees. Many of these board members don't attend the meetings themselves but send representatives in their place. Generally there are as many as 20 people on the dais at meetings, sometimes outnumbering the audience.
All the members, he said, are “good people” who want to “fill the economic void” that the shuttered fort will leave behind. Where they deviate, he said, is on the subtlety between creating jobs and creating jobs that will be beneficial to the towns themselves.
“We also want to see the quality of life maintained,” he told residents.
Who's who on FMERA
The 13-member FMERA board is comprised of mostly state government officials with private sector members appointed by the governor. The board is:
- James Gorman, chairman*
- Alfred Koeppe, Economic Development Authority chairman
- Deborah Gramiccioni, governor’s Authorities Unit director
- Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry
- Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo
- Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon
- Tinton Falls Mayor Michael Skudera
- Lori Grifa, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs commissioner
- Bob Martin, Department of Environmental Protection commissioner
- Harold Wirths, New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development commissioner
- James Simpson, New Jersey Department of Transportation commissioner
- Michael Pane, Esq., public member, chair of FMERA real estate committee*
- Dr. Robert Luckey, public member, serves on FMERA real estate committee*
* governor's appointees
F- what? A little background on FMERA
Signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on Aug. 17, 2010, the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority was created to provide investment, continuity and economic growth to the communities impacted by the federal government’s decision to close Fort Monmouth.
FMERA replaces the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Planning Authority (FMERPA) and advances that entity’s 2006 Reuse and Development Plan for economic development, growth and planning, with a focus on technology-based industries, for the 1,126-acres of real estate at Fort Monmouth following the base closure on Sept. 15. This is the original master plan that the Eatontown mayor is concerned about sticking too.
Can the three mayors keep their hold on the plan?
Concern number seven on Taranotolo’s list is the prospect of a super-majority vote that is required in instances of major importance. Tarantolo told the audience that legislation says that in these matters a majority vote of seven is required. The mayor said he isn't worried about the board locating a giant polluting factory at the fort, but he is uneasy that his local concerns could be out numbered when push comes to shove.
"We have three mayors and a freeholder," he said. "We’re the minority and that’s important." Tarantolo is concerned that industries outside of the plan’s scope will approach FMERA and “dangle a carrot” in the form of big money in front of the board, which could sway it to change the 2006 plan.
“Do we look the other way, take the money and say, 'Go do it’ or do we say, 'Wait, we have a plan'?”
“Where does the compromise come in?” the mayor wondered out loud. "We’re already seeing some of that."
To address this concern and the concern about integrity of commitment, on Wednesday the Eatontown Borough Council approved an updated version of the 2006 Memorandum of Agreement between the borough and Oceanport and Tinton Falls at their regular meeting.
“So we will have some protection,” said Tarantolo, who is the only original signer of the agreement to remain in office.