Masonry institute plans classes at Fort Ritchie

January 30, 1997


Staff Writer

FORT RITCHIE - The Fort Ritchie Local Redevelopment Authority and the International Masonry Institute aren't waiting for the base to close before putting unused areas to commercial use.

Under an agreement with the redevelopment authority and the Army, the institute will hold its first 12-week stone masonry training session.

During the first session, that begins Monday, about 30 apprentices from as far away as Alaska will live and train on the base, said institute President Joan Calambokidis.


The institute will use an empty warehouse for training and unused space at the base guest house to house trainees.

The Army will bill the redevelopment authority for the space used for the training and for boarding the trainees, and the authority, in turn, will bill the masonry institute, authority Executive Director Robert Sweeney said.

Calambokidis and Sweeney said they are trying to negotiate a lease or purchase agreement for the institute to create a national training center at the base.

The masonry institute previously stated that the training center could bring 240 jobs and a payroll of $8 million a year to Washington County.

Sweeney said there are bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, and a decision made on the amount of space that will be available to the institute. The amount of space available to the institute will affect how many jobs would come to the area, Calambokidis said.

"This is a very, very, very - there aren't enough very's - bureaucratic process," Sweeney said.

"It's all headed in the right direction," Calambokidis said. She said she was hopeful an agreement could be reached in the next two or three months.

Sweeney said the institute would fit well with the planned concept for the base reuse - a combination technology park and training center.

"We're attempting to have a balance so we're not totally dependent on one sector of the economy," he said.

Sweeney said the institute would bring a large number of people into Washington County who would never come otherwise.

The institute operates eight regional training centers, Calambokidis said. Some of those would close if the institute opened a national center at Fort Ritchie, she said.

Some training classes that haven't been offered, such as those in stone masonry and terrazzo, a type of ground stone, would be created, she said.

Calambokidis said the institute has looked at other bases being closed, and "this is the best relationship we've seen between an LRA and a base."

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