By John Burton
FORT MONMOUTH – The governmental wheels are turning to prepare housing at the former Fort Monmouth, officials said.
After Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that suitable residential units at the fort would be made available for those displaced by Super Storm Sandy, plans have been in the works to establish a means for allocating the available units.
Christie said earlier this week during a press briefing the state’s Department of Community Affairs (DCA) was working on a lottery-type system for those seeking temporary housing.
“We’ll probably have more demand than we’ll have supply,” Lisa Ryan, a DCA spokeswoman, said in an email.
“Many efforts to get the facility ready are under way, and there are many moving parts,” Ryan said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will not be running the facility but will be involved in its funding, according to Robin Smith, a FEMA media specialist.
“It’s coming together,” state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon said. “All the agencies are working together as quickly as they possibly can.”
O’Scanlon, a Republican, represents the 13th Assembly District, which includes the Bayshore area, Rumson and Sea Bright. People in those communities sustained a staggering amount of destruction from the late October storm that has left many with damaged and destroyed homes and has resulted in residents living with friends, family or in area shelters as they try to put their lives back together.
While O’Scanlon said area officials wished the announcement about the temporary housing had occurred earlier, they are happy it will come to fruition.
The former fort property was inspected by representatives from the governor’s office, FEMA, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) and DCA to determine if it could be used for housing those displaced by the storm.
“We didn’t want to let people into buildings that aren’t ready for them and find out we have a disaster on the back end,” O’Scanlon said.
Erin Gold, a spokesperson for the state’s Economic Development Authority, which oversees FMERA, said the agencies have been looking at units on the fort property located in Oceanport and the McGill Housing complex, located in the property’s Eatontown section, near the golf course.
Gold was not sure about the number of units that would be available. However, DCA’s Ryan, said in an email on Monday, Nov. 12, that DCA Commissioner Richard Constable estimates there would be housing for approximately 400 to 600 families.
Christie said Tuesday, Nov. 13, he hoped to have power turned on at the facility by the weekend, which would allow families to move in by next week.
“More details will be made available as we move toward the housing being ready,” Gold said.
O’Scanlon acknowledged the initial projection that families could move in by the end of the week to be a little optimistic. “I’m certainly hoping within a week and a half we have a good handle on it,” he said.
Fort Monmouth, a 90-year-old facility consisting of 1,120 acres of Tinton Falls, Eatontown and Oceanport property, was closed and decommissioned as part of the 2005 federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The location had a considerable housing stock to accommodate military personnel and families. But as the emphasis at the fort moved away from active military operations and concentrated more on high-tech research and development projects with civilian employees and contractors, much of the housing was put in mothballs. Once the fort closed, the remainder of the units had its electric and water services turned off.
“The perception is you just flip on a switch and that’s not the case,” said Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon, who, like the mayors of the other two host communities, serves on FMERA, explaining there was a need to inspect and evaluate the location before making any commitment.
About a third of the fort property had been impacted by the storm, causing flooding and damaging the location’s sewer pumping stations, Mahon said.