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Letterkenny deputy commander speaks about Franklin County depot's future

May 07, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Letterkenny Army Depot Deputy Commander John Gray on Tuesday morning addressed the state of the depot during a Greencastle-Antrim Chamber of Commerce Breakfast at Antrim House Family Restaurant.

Gray spoke for more than a half-hour about the history of the depot, new construction, employment numbers, community involvement and even the end of war.

About 40 people attended the breakfast - the fourth of 10 scheduled for the year. It is the first time Gray has attended the function.

Gray discussed plans for an on-base Army Reserve Center that would be built using almost $23 million that the depot could receive as part of the 2009 Department of Defense budget.

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He said the reserve center would be built off Georgia Avenue at an estimated cost of $14 million. An additional $8 million would be used to modify "about 100" igloos at the Letterkenny Munitions Center.

"We looked at the infrastructure and put together a plan for the next 25 to 30 years," Gray said.

A new reserve center would close facilities in Greencastle and Chambersburg, Pa., which Gray said can no longer accommodate the depot.

"We can close the one here in Greencastle and that would open up about seven acres of developmental space," he said.

The doors of the igloos need to be enlarged to store tactical missiles and a step would be removed to allow loading vehicles easier access.

A similar $5.5 million project began in 2005 to modify 92 igloos - there are 902 igloos at the Munitions Center.

Gray also discussed how the war in Iraq has affected the depot. He said that in 2001, Letterkenny did $100 million in business and today, it is at $500 million.

"The war has been very good for business, unfortunately," Gray said. "That's what the depot exists for. But when the war ends, I'll celebrate."

An end to the war would mean a substantial loss of business for Letterkenny. However, Gray predicted it would take two years after the conflict ends to feel the loss.

"It will go down, certainly, but it won't go all the way back down to $100 million, what it was before the war," he said. "We just don't know what number it will go down to yet. What we're trying to do is bring in the big boys of the defense industry. Our hope is to be in backfill."

LEAD is the largest workplace in Franklin County with about 3,100 federal and contract employees. Gray said the depot had a payroll of $130 million to 150 million, with a $47,000 average salary.

Letterkenny is developing more training opportunities with its partnership with Wilson College, Gray said. Beginning with the upcoming summer semester, Letterkenny will hold college classes in Building 102 using a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Shippensburg (Pa.) University might develop a graduate program at the base, Gray said.

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