At a bill signing near the Shrewsbury River, Gov. Chris Christie today created the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) to transition the dying military base to the next era when the feds finally shutter the nearly 100-year-old jobs magnet in 2011.
“With the closure of Fort Monmouth very near on the horizon, it is vital that state and local leaders are prepared with a comprehensive, long-term plan to ensure that economic continuity, stability and growth are maintained for the regions effected by the closure,” Christie said in a statement. “Through the joint efforts of State, county and municipal leaders, Fort Monmouth can and will remain a driver of economic growth for both the region and the State. By creating the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority to take action on a comprehensive and strong economic development plan, we are ensuring that the municipal, county and State resources and guidance will be employed in partnership to make certain that Fort Monmouth will be a home for job creation and economic growth.”
The original primary sponsor of the bill that created the 2006 planning authroity for Fort Monmouth, state Sen. Joe Kyrillos (R-Middletown), said, “The Fort Monmouth Revitalization Act creates a unique State, local and private sector partnership to build a future where the Fort site can again be a dynamic economic hub one day. It is our challenge and obligation.”
State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-Red Bank), a co-prime sponsor of the new bill – along with veteran state Sen. Ray Lesniak (D-Elizabeth), said legislators were able to secure more than 40 amendments to the bill, making it more “palatable to the residents and municipal and county leaders.”
“The amendments include mandating that five members of the nine member board are residents of Monmouth County and incorporating strict pay-to-play and conflict of interest regulations that will apply to developers, vendors and board members,” said Beck. “In the end, we created the best possible policy by keeping ourselves open to input from the local, county and state levels.”
The authority designates three special districts within the fort: a special improvement district; a transportation planning district, in which development fees could be imposed to fund transportation projects within the district; and an infrastructure district, in which “the authority would be permitted to reduce the sales and use tax collected by the State to 50 percent within the district, with the other 50 percent going to a franchise assessment to provide for loans, grants or debt service to finance or re-finance on-site or off-site infrastructure improvements, including parking, transportation facilities, environmental safeguards, or any other project which provides a public benefit within the infrastructure district,” according to Lesniak.
“This new law represents the next phase in the transition of Fort Monmouth from military base to economic powerhouse of eastern Monmouth County,” Lesniak said. “There’s no question that the fort has been an integral part of the Monmouth County economy for years, contributing not only cutting-edge technology to our country’s military efforts oversees, but also contributing millions of dollars to local businesses and employing thousands of military and civilian employees. This law sets the stage for the future of the communities hosting Fort Monmouth, to make sure we capitalize on this opportunity to expand Monmouth County’s economy.”