Local officials in central New Jersey are complaining they were left in the dark on plans to convert a shuttered military base into an Ebola quarantine center -- and say they only found out about it when fire officials arrived for an inspection last week.
"Nobody was happy about this situation," Eatontown Mayor Dennis Connelly told FoxNews.com.
Connelly says he had learned earlier that the military post, Fort Monmouth, could be used as a secondary quarantine site -- the state already uses a psychiatric hospital in Hunterdon County -- but only found out that the plan had moved forward last week.
The Asbury Park Press reported that the state Department of Human Services had been in contact with a select number of local officials regarding the plan for this center. However, they asked that the plans not be made public. Local officials complain there was never an opportunity for the community to discuss the matter and be part of the planning.
According to Connelly, the concern wasn't just that patients potentially exposed to Ebola could be housed there. Officials also have been preparing the Fort Monmouth property to be put up for sale, and the Ebola center plans create problems for that effort.
"Officials ... are concerned that such actions have the potential to undermine the economic development of the Fort Monmouth property in the long run as it is necessary for the Board and the public and the State to work together openly and for the betterment of all residents," Connelly said in a joint statement with Monmouth County Freeholder Lillian Burry, Oceanport Mayor Michael Mahon and Tinton Falls Mayor Gerry Turning.
Fort Monmouth was closed as a military post in 2011. Shortly afterward, a committee -- the Fort Monmouth Economic Revitalization Authority (FMERA) -- was created to assist in the economic transition of the surrounding towns. The committee assumed control of the base from the Army, with the power to lease and sell parts of the property. According to reports, FMERA recently leased a portion of Fort Monmouth for six months to the Department of Human Services to use as the Ebola quarantine center.
The local officials said in their statement that the lease, though, was "imposed" on the committee by Gov. Chris Christie's government and "was not vetted at a public meeting or voted on by the entire Board."
While the state is being accused of keeping the plans close to the vest, dozens of other treatment centers already are operational across the country to handle Ebola and other outbreaks. There are 48 treatment centers and 20 quarantine centers, overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fort Monmouth was not previously among them.
Local and state officials have sent a letter to the Department of Human Services requesting answers for why Fort Monmouth was chosen as the site for this center.
The quarantine center is still in the developing stages, and no Ebola patients have been treated there.
The Asbury Park Press reported that the center will only treat patients who have been exposed to the virus but show no symptoms, suggesting the health risks would be minimal. If patients were to become symptomatic, according to the report, they would be transferred to another facility immediately.
Representatives in the Christie administration have not yet commented on the local officials' concerns.
FoxNews.com's Jean Lee contributed to this report.