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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Apr. 5, 201612:00 PM EST

USS Adams group still needs $2M from donors

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by: David Chapman

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott were kind to the group trying to bring the USS Adams to Downtown.

Now the Jacksonville Historic Naval Ship Association hopes others in Jacksonville will be just as generous.

The group in recent weeks received a $1 million state appropriation under the heading of “historic properties restoration,” with the funds ultimately used to help house the ship along the St. Johns River.

“We are ecstatic,” said Dan Bean, association president.

The funding will be used to upgrade the pier, create a makeshift parking lot and repair uplands — cleaning up “muck” as Bean calls it — so the warship can be berthed in a way that doesn’t deteriorate the hull.

The money, Bean said, is crucial.

Initially, the needed improvements and ship repairs were budgeted at about $3.5 million, said Bean.

The state funding means the association can focus on seeking just the budgeted $2.5 million for rehabbing the ship and bringing it to Jacksonville.

It is in Philadelphia awaiting a go-ahead for improvements, painting, and refurbishing the topside and some main compartments.

It’s not everything the association planned for the ship, but it’s enough to get the vessel functional and ready to tow to Jacksonville.

Bean said in that state, the Adams could be open to the public and profitable in ways like a museum or sleepovers for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts — groups that often go out of state for such excursions.

Even getting to that point will need help from the community.

The association has a $2.5 million line of credit with Synovus Bank that requires collateral before it can be accessed.

Bean and others are pitching community leaders for support in the form of providing a share of that collateral. They’re seeking $125,000 from 20 donors to hit the mark. They have commitments from four.

“That’s the biggest thing,” said Bean. “We just need people to step up.”

He realizes it’s a “leap of faith” for some, but calls it a safe risk and the likelihood is it will never come up.

The association continues to fundraise every day, Bean said.

One such opportunity takes place through a “boat drop” event April 12. Hundreds of toy rubber boats will be dropped in the river Downtown, with prizes awarded to owners whose floating vessels cross the finish line first. Each boat is $10 and goes toward the association bringing the USS Adams to Jacksonville.

If funding can be lined up, timing might be on the Adams’ side, too.

Bean said the Philadelphia shipyard for the next 18 months is working on a series of frigates, but would complete the Adams work when funding is in place. Savings, said Bean, would be significant because dry docking wouldn’t take reconfiguration.

Additionally, the $300,000 set aside for towing likely would end up being lower because the price of fuel has fallen in the past couple of years.

Bean said the hope is for the Adams to be in Jacksonville by the Navy and Notre Dame college football game in October. There are business opportunities available with both schools, he said.

The state money will further develop the Shipyards property, although the city and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan continue to discuss proposals addressing the the long-term status of riverfront site.

Aundra Wallace, Downtown Investment Authority CEO, said those talks are still underway but he was happy for the association’s legislative win and looks forward to working with them in the future.

[email protected]

@writerchapman

(904) 356-2466

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