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Army Agreement Paves Way to Fort Redevelopment

Monmouth Regional Jazz Band kicks off celebration at Gibbs Hall.

The sticky wheel of Fort Monmouth redevelopment -- the property transfer agreement between redevelopers and the U.S. Army -- broke free from the mud of 15 months of negotiations, and made a full rotation Wednesday, when the two sides sat down for a ceremonial signing at Gibbs Hall.

The agreement marks a significant step. It will be closely followed by federal approval of another document, the . After that redevelopers will be free to finally sell and lease the properties they have been marketing for more than a year. The goal is to replace the jobs the Army took with it when it left a year ago.

In the banquet room of the former officer's club, James Gorman, president of the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority, the local authority charged with the redevelopment of the fort, and Paul D. Cramer, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Army, signed off on the Phase I transfer agreement, officially the , which lays out the terms of the transfer of 560 acres of fort property from the Army to FMERA.

The Monmouth Regional Jazz Band, under the direction of Gerald Romano, elevated the mood of the ceremony. Accompanied by the band, senior Theresa Hauge of Tinton Falls sang "Night and Day." The band also performed the Army song.

"I don't think the public realizes what a momentous day this is," retired FMERA employee told Patch. "Really. It paves the way for everything, everything."

Gorman noted that the first two commercial deals -- , which will relocate from Oceanport , and AcuteCare, which will fill the former fort clinic -- are a sign of hope and a result of broad based cooperative work by the local, county and state governments. "It's an example of good government at all levels," he said.

Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, who is a Monmouth County resident and who has been closely involved with the process, gave the keynote address with vigor and thanked individual members of the board and the legislators who laid the ground work for the redevelopment, including Declan O'Scanlon who she called "our favorite legislator" and Sen. Jennifer Beck who she said "did not sleep" as they "cobbled diverse interests together to create FMERA." She also noted Freeholder Lillian Burry, whose focus is veterans, with her "long standing commitment to reinvigorate Fort Monmouth."

Guadagno was enthusiastic about the changes, forceful even, about the future of Fort Monmouth's property. She pointed to and the ability to go anywhere in the world. Pointing out CommVault's CFO Louis F. Miceli, she said, "Lou and I had a few fair fights about why he should stay here."

In staying in Monmouth County she said, the company has plans to add 700 jobs initially and 2,000-2,500 new high tech jobs in the future. AccuteCare Health Services she said, plans to bring 200 jobs to the former Paterson Army Health Clinic.

About the process of remaking Fort Monmouth, the roads around it like the fouled , and the creation of new jobs, Guadagno said, the process is personal for her. "You will never lose the attention of this lieutenant governor in the next several years," she said. She also thanked the (the state entity that oversees FMERA) for "changing rules and regulations so we can incentivize businesses to come here."

"We're going to do this and we're going to do it right," she said.

Dr. Robert Lucky, who is a board member and part of the original team that laid the groundwork for the redevelopment process six years ago, said for him the day was anti-climatic. "This is the beginning of the beginning," he told Patch before the official signing. "There is so much more work to be done."

Bruce Steadman, executive director of FMERA, like the Lt. Governor, emphasized that the huge project is a collaborative effort between many parties, from government, military, FMERA staff and residents.

"That's how this job goes, it's a team effort," he said. "A big team effort."

The executive director expects to be back in Gibbs hall in 12-18 months to sign the second memorandum of agreement for the remainder of the fort property. He also said that the board is on target for a June 15 transfer of the first property, where CommVault intends to build a new facility.

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