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Letterkenny plans to reacquire 235 acres

October 13, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Letterkenny Army Depot needs to protect its facilities in order to protect itself from future defense cuts, one reason Depot Commander Col. Robert A. Swenson says a master plan for the installation's future includes reacquiring land from the Cumberland Valley Business Park.

Swenson Thursday reviewed the plan, which recommends moving the headquarters and some other depot functions "inside the fence" to meet Department of Defense force protection and anti-terrorism guidelines. The plan would have the depot reacquire 235 acres of the business park which is due to be deeded over to the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority.

Spared from being targeted for realignment or closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 2005, the depot has facilities in an area referred to as "The Finger" near its perimeter that will have to be relocated. Otherwise, Letterkenny could be threatened in the next round of base closures, which Swenson said might not occur until 2015.

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Despite comprising about 18,000 acres, most of the depot is taken up by an ammunition storage area, which requires safety zones within which new facilities cannot be built, Swenson said. The area the depot wants to reacquire from LIDA, he said, is served by utilities and roads, making it more practical for new construction.

The Pentagon already has ambitious building plans totaling more than $53 million between 2005 and 2011, Swenson said. That includes a consolidated Army Reserve center, an Army Reserve logistics operation for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast states and a new missile readiness facility, according to the briefing he gave community leaders.

The depot has seen its workload increase from $153 million in 2001 to more than $500 million now, much of it related to the war on terrorism, Swenson said. Total employee-hours worked are expected to increase from 2.6 million now to more than 3 million next year, he said.

The depot has also added approximately 1,000 federal and contract employees since 2001, Swenson said. The colonel's presentation stated that the average salary for a depot worker is about $46,000.

"I think it's real important ... We would possibly be looking at closure in the next BRAC" if the plan does not move forward, said Gerald Mellott, president of National Federation of Federal Employees Local 1429, which represents about 800 depot workers.

The Department of Defense has yet to approve the plan, drafted by H.F. Lenz Engineering of Johnstown, Pa., and will also require the depot and Department of Defense to modify its agreement with LIDA, Swenson said.

"There are negotiations going on right now ... This is going to be a long process," said LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn. "We hope we can get a real good resolution" that works for both the Army and LIDA, he said.

As a result of the BRAC decision in 1995 to transfer missions from Letterkenny, 1,425 acres of the depot were declared excess property by the Pentagon and LIDA was created to redevelop the land, Van Horn said. The Army still holds the deeds to most of the 235 acres in question, but it is supposed to eventually be deeded over to the authority, he said.

"The potential loss of sales (from land) is coming into the discussion," Van Horn said. With less land to market for the business park, LIDA is seeking assistance for the utilities, roads and other facilities it built for the park.

The depot and LIDA are negotiating a possible 50-year lease to the Army with another 50-year option "with no cost to Letterkenny or expense to LIDA," Van Horn said. The authority board of directors, he said, wants to assist the depot in its expansion.

Letterkenny, which leases buildings in the business park, is the park's biggest customer, Swenson said.

Since LIDA was created, it has received deeds to about 600 acres of the 1,425 acres of excess property, Van Horn said. About 250 acres have been sold and another 210 have been set aside for possible future use by the Chambersburg Area School District, he said.




Know more ...in 30 seconds



The issue: Following the transfer of missions away from Letterkenny Army Depot in 1995, 1,425 acres of the Chambersburg, Pa., depot were declared excess property by the Pentagon and the Letterkenny Industrial Development Authority (LIDA) was created to redevelop the land.

What's new: Thanks to expanding missions and the Army's desire to move headquarters and other functions inside the depot, the Army wants to reacquire 235 acres from LIDA.

What's next: The depot and LIDA are negotiating a possible 50-year lease to the Army with another 50-year option "with no cost to Letterkenny or expense to LIDA," said LIDA Executive Director John Van Horn. The authority board of directors, he said, wants to assist the depot in its expansion.

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