With the spectre of a state takeover looming, officials in Atlantic City decided last night to put Bader Field up for auction, banking on the proceeds of the sale to reduce the city's $437 million debt.

The 140-acre property once home to a bustling airport has fallen into disuse in recent years. A baseball stadium on the property goes mostly untouched.

"We're trying to exercise all our options," said City Council President Marty Small, "trying to find as much capital as possible."

City officials were hoping to collect more than $1 billion for Bader Field in the mid-2000s, but a deal never materialized.

Four casino closures and a recession later, the opening bid for the upcoming auction of Bader Field will begin at $155 million. "You hope that you get more," said Small.

Although the city reportedly has no buyers lined up for Bader Field, Florida real estate developer and Revel owner Glenn Straub expressed interest in the property at Wednesday night's City Council meeting. "I'm a developer. That's a small project for us," he said.

The City Council vote comes days after both houses of the state legislature authorized a November ballot question asking voters whether the state should approve two casinos in North Jersey. Atlantic City is the only New Jersey municipality where casino gambling is legal.

Backers say the measure could help send much-needed money to Atlantic City, but opponents contend that the competing casinos will leave the gambling hub in even worse shape.

Also on the agenda Wednesday night were several measures to dissolve the Municipal Utilities Authority, an independent authority that provides the city's water.  If approved, that would put the body under city control. However that measure was tabled after several councilmembers raised concerns that it could lead to privatization.  It's unclear if that measure will be considered at the next meeting.