$40 million Armed Forces reserve facility on tap for Abilene, Texas

Oct. 20, 2008
Bids open through September 2009

A $40 million Armed Forces Reserve Center to be built at Dyess Air Force Base as part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process will be a boost for Abilene.

The reserve center will be a consolidated facility for Army reservists from the Grimes Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center, area maintenance support and reserve airmen from Dyess, as well as National Guard units from Abilene, Coleman and Snyder, said Lt. Col. Tim Senecaut from the National Guard in Austin.

"This is an FY 2009 project, so we can bid the job until Sept. 30 of next year, which is the end of our fiscal year," Senecaut said. The construction project will be up for bid by contractors after the building design is completed sometime in November.

He added that the project will be substantial for Abilene.

"This will employ many subcontractors, so that will be a significant advantage for Abilene," Senecaut said.

Abilene Mayor Norm Archibald agreed.

"A major construction project like this will also provide construction jobs to residents of Abilene and the area," Archibald said. "And the consolidation is great for the area because it lets guardsmen train closer to home."

The new reserve center will be a 71,000-square-foot building for training, including road construction. A 30,000-square-foot center will also be constructed for vehicle and equipment maintenance.

Construction is set for completion by 2011.

The reserve center will be at the south end of Dyess between 3rd and 4th streets. About 320 residents and reserve soldiers, which includes a full-time staff of about 30, will be located at the center.

Senecaut said the project rivals two recent BRAC construction projects -- one in Houston that cost $37 million and one in El Paso that cost an estimated $44 million.

According to the BRAC plans approved in 2005, training facilities are to provide the capability to conduct soldier readiness processing, home station mobilization, reduce the number of substandard facilities, enhance anti-terror protection, promote recruiting and retention, and enhance the Homeland Security and Homeland Defense capabilities of the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard.

The $40 million project comes amid uncertainty over the strength of the national economy. Congress approved a $700 billion financial bailout last week in an effort to ease tightening credit and give the economy a boost.

Dyess will also be getting a $21 million C-130 maintenance hangar, approved by Congress in its recent military spending bill that includes the reserve center.

Another construction project on the horizon is Hendrick Health System's $80 million Project 2010 expansion of its medical facilities.

For the first three quarters of the year, construction permits in Abilene total $106,203,140, right in line with last year's $106,662,626 through Sept. 30. Total construction permits, however, are running about 25 percent lower than 2006's record pace ($145 million for the first nine months of 2006).

Plans call for the closure of the Grimes Memorial U.S. Army Reserve Center located on South Treadaway. It's not clear what will happen to the Texas National Guard Armory on South 9th Street, near Rose Park, when guardsmen move to the new center.

The Department of Education has approved allowing the Region 14 Education Service Center to purchase the Grimes center. Under an agreement with Region 14 and the department of education, the building will be purchased at the current market value with Region 14 picking up 20 percent and the education department picking up the remaining 80 percent of the cost. The building is valued at about a quarter of a million dollars.

Region 14 Executive Director Ronnie Kincaid said the plans are to relocate some of programs to the Grimes center.

"We will have a combination of one, two or three components that we will move there," Kincaid said. "It just depends on what will fit best when we are allowed to go over there."

Amanda Peterson of the Scripps Howard News Service contributed to this report.

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