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Beaver County Times Allegheny Times June 19, 2005

When soldiers, airmen leave, communities are left behind

By Patrick O'Shea

Despite the concerted efforts by local officials to keep the 911th Air Force Reserve base in Moon Township and the Army's Charles E. Kelly Support Center in Collier Township open, municipalities could actually end up with some benefits from property left behind.

The Pentagon has offered assistance to communities where bases have been closed or downsized. And that could include millions of dollars in money for cleanup and redevelopment of the former military installation properties.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.Org, a defense analysis firm based in Virginia, said there have been places where air bases in the middle of nowhere closed, and the community dried up and blew away. But there also have been success stories, such as the former Cameron Air Station in northern Virginia, which closed 15 years ago and was turned by the community into expensive town houses.

"Some (bases) have closed because the real estate was too valuable to waste on the military," Pike said.

Collier Township Manager Jeanne Creese said the community would like to keep the support center, especially the commissary and post exchange, but if the base does vacate, the community is interested in acquiring the property.

She said the base has been scaled back so much over the years that the people in Collier have become somewhat accustomed to seeing military losses. The former Nike missile site at the center was decommissioned several years ago by the Army and turned into a community park that includes softball and soccer fields.

Creese said the commissioners have not discussed what they would do with the remaining acreage if it became available. She said officials would be fine with the commissary and PX, which serves thousands of active-duty and retired military members and their families monthly, being moved to the 99th Army Reserve site in Moon.

Neville Township officials also have expressed an interest in property owned by the Army on Grand Avenue that is used for a vehicle depot for the support center. But no plans have been announced on what they would do with the property.

Moon Manager Greg Smith said the property in Moon that would become available is owned by the Allegheny County Airport Authority, so that agency would control its fate.

He admitted the property would be prime real estate due to its proximity to Pittsburgh International Airport, but Smith said they really are pushing for the base to be saved.

Smith said studies of previous base eliminations have shown it takes more than a decade for most communities to recover from a base closing.


Copyright 2005, Beaver County Times Allegheny Times