FMERA seeks Army funds for security at fort

Fire response plan for base being discussed


The three host municipalities of Tinton Falls, Oceanport and Eatontown may not be footing the bill for Fort Monmouth security after the post closes on Sept. 15.

At the July 20 Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) meeting, Bruce Steadman, FMERA secretary and executive director, said that although details with the U.S. Army are not yet finalized, there would be funding available for policing the fort grounds. “The short answer is yes, there will be funding available to pay for a bill for high-level and professional law enforcement services,” Steadman said.

The vacant post’s policing plan has been a matter of concern at recent FMERA meetings.

“Fort security is one of our top priorities at this stage of our efforts,” Frank Cosentino, director of plans and programs for FMERA, said.

“We want to know for certain that the level of security which has been a factor there will continue to be a factor and available to prospective tenants that might be there, prospective purchasers of the property, for us and for visitors.”

Cosentino said that the New Jersey State Police have responded well to proposals of policing, as well as the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Monmouth County.

FMERA board member and Freeholder Director Lillian Burry said that the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office is willing to assist.

“The Sheriff’s Office is prepared to get involved with 911 in this area,” she said.

Gate security will be a high-priority aspect of the plan, Steadman said.

“There are multimillion facilities that require protection, some top secret and secret facilities that need a level of protection to be manifested to keep them certified,” he said.

“We think the best way to do it is to have control of the gates.”

Checkpoints will continue to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing the property, Steadman said.

“We are still looking for investors and employers. We want to create a high level of protection, security and safety so that investors, employers, tenants and visitors will be comfortable coming and going at any time of the day,” he said.

FMERA member and Eatontown Mayor Gerald Tarantolo expressed concerns over the costs associated with that level of comprehensive security.

Cosentino and Steadman said that every effort is being made to avoid burdening the municipalities.

“It has been our intent and desire through certain efforts to not obligate the municipalities or the county in any way from a financial standout through the first several years of the transition,” Cosentino said.

“That’s our goal, and so we must find a way to pick up whatever cost there is relative to this policing effort through the land sales.”

Steadman said that funds for security would be allocated as part of the negotiation over the land transfer. “It’s the goal, as part of the negotiations with theArmy, that there would be funds set aside for those types of costs,” Steadman said.

“We’ve proceeded very well in that regard.”

Steadman said that details on the agreement would be available in the near future.

Similarly, the authority has also begun discussing the fire response plan for Fort Monmouth, which Cosentino said continued to be a concern of the three mayors.

“On Sept. 15 there will be no fire response at the fort; it would have been closed, they [firefighters] would have moved on,” he said.

“We must find a way to ensure that the local communities are able to respond.”

Cosentino said that some form of local emergency planning council could be formed to help address the issue.

“We would want to create an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with each municipality, and in that MOU structure, we would want to cover these particular services so that there’s a clear understanding of exactly how the services would be rendered, who would be responsible, and how that would be handled fiscally,” Cosentino said.

Tarantolo cautioned against classifying any agreements pertaining to the Fort Monmouth property and the municipalities as mutual aid, rather than a special agreement.

“The reason I ask that is that mutual aid is a two-way street,” he said.

Fort Monmouth and the three host towns provide police, fire and first aid assistance to each other on an as-needed basis.

If the municipality provides services to the Fort Monmouth property, in case of a fire, for example, the vacant property would no longer be able to respond in kind to the municipality, he said.

“Fort Monmouth doesn’t have a fire department, so do we expect anybody to show up from Fort Monmouth when we have a major event?” Tarantolo said.

“They don’t exist. Whatever you do, don’t classify it as mutual aid.”

Steadman said that the policing and the emergency response plan are still being revised and that he hopes to make the full plan public at the Aug. 17 FMERA meeting or the September meeting at the latest.