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Jax Daily Record Thursday, May 31, 201805:10 AM EST

The Cawton Report: Rutherford working to bring USS Charles F. Adams to Downtown

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Effort to bring destroyer to city and convert it into a floating museum spans more than a decade.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford said he now has become personally involved in bringing the USS Charles F. Adams to Downtown Jacksonville, an effort that began 10 years ago. 

Rutherford said Wednesday he is working with the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command and other officials, including Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, to approve the ship’s donation to the nonprofit Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association Inc.

The Naval Sea Systems Command is the largest of the U.S. Navy’s five system commands. It designs, builds, delivers and maintain ships and systems for the military branch. The command has the authority over donating or scrapping retired vessels. 

“We’re getting ready to send the final package up to them and hopefully they give us the go-ahead,” Rutherford said. 

The 437-foot USS Adams was commissioned in 1960 and is named after former Secretary of the Navy Charles F. Adams. It was decommissioned in 1990 and currently is at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. 

The plan to bring back the destroyer, which previously docked at Naval Station Mayport, now spans a decade. 

The Navy plans to donate the ship to the nonprofit, which then will convert it into a floating museum. 

“The Navy actually already had it on the list to scrap but we got them to pause that while they worked out the financing and the berthing side of the agreement,” Rutherford said.

The effort received a boost May 23 when the Downtown Investment Authority approved a three-year economic development agreement with the nonprofit.  

Terms include a 10-year licensing agreement with two five-year extensions to moor the vessel at Pier No. 1 at the former Shipyards property on the Downtown Northbank.

The deal mirrors one that expired in 2017 as the nonprofit failed to reach its funding goals. 

If City Council approves the agreement in late June or early July, the ship could arrive by fall.  

Rutherford said the latest attempt hasn’t been easy, with personnel changes in naval leadership and confusion over whether the nonprofit fulfilled the necessary requirements. 

“We’ve been writing letters, meeting with officials to challenge them on us having met the requirements, and whether they actually moved the goal post on us,” he said. 

U.S. Rep. John Rutherford

Rutherford said he wasn’t sure why the Navy seemed hesitant to the idea of donating the ship, considering it approved a similar plan in 2013. 

“I do think they want to make it happen, but there may be some there that don’t,” he said.

“In fairness to them, we do have to make sure that all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed,” he said.

The nonprofit announced last fall it had secured $2.8 million in funding through donations, private capital, bank loans and state grants to refurbish the ship and moor it in Jacksonville. 

The funds include about $620,000 to rebuild the bulkhead and surrounding area where the ship will dock and another $300,000 placed into escrow in case it needs to be towed out of Jacksonville. 

JHNSA President Daniel Bean said Wednesday that once the Navy releases the ship to the group’s care, Rhoads Industries Inc. will begin restoring the vessel at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. 

“We have a four-week work package with Rhoads to refurbish the outside of the ship, scrape it down, paint it and put it back together,” Bean said. 

He said the exterior work should cost about $1.2 million. 

From there, he said the Adams will come to Jacksonville where tours can begin on the outside of the ship. 

“Our business plan is to clear an area for topside tours and once we can establish that, then we’ll go to work on the inside,” he said. 

Bean said it will be the youngest American warship to be converted to a floating museum. He said the ship is of particular significance to Jacksonville. 

“It was here for 20 years at Mayport and was the lead warship in the Cuban missile crisis,”  Bean said. 

“Tens of thousands of people served on that ship or worked on it while it was here and I think they’d like to show their friends and families,” he said. 

Bean said Rutherford took an interest before and after he was elected to Congress in 2016. 

“His folks have been fantastic, and we’re thankful that he’s gotten involved and is still in the weeds of trying to bring this ship home,” said Bean.  

“No other public official has spent as much time on this as the congressman.” 

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