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Brac 'on track'

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Human Resources Command to hire 400 this summer; future of Patton Museum coming into focus

By John Friedlein

By JOHN FRIEDLEIN

jfriedlein@thenewsenterprise.com

FRANKFORT — The commander of the Army’s Accessions Command on Friday discussed the positive economic impacts of the Fort Knox realignment.

Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley briefed reporters at the Capitol after meeting with state officials, including Gov. Steve Beshear.

“The work is going extremely well,” he said. “We’re on track.”

With the addition of the Human Resources and Accessions commands, the post, which is losing the Armor Center in 2011, will become more of an administrative center with better-paid employees.

The changes are part of the latest Base Realignment and Closure initiative.

Just the prep work is pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. About 1,700 construction workers are on post, Freakley said. Total building costs are projected to be $940 million — $536 million in new structures and $404 million in renovations, according to the U.S. Army.

Off post, there is now a gentle upsurge in home sales, Freakley said.

With an increase in civilian workers, more of those who work at Fort Knox likely will live in surrounding communities.

Freakley urged those who rent and sell homes not to exploit the increased demand by price gouging.

All incoming commands have some advanced parties at Fort Knox. Next year, the Army expects a sharp population increase on post.

The about-3,400-soldier strong 3rd Brigade 1st Infantry Division will arrive by January. Counting spouses and children, this will bring roughly 9,000 people to the area.

The HR Command plans to hire about 400 for its workforce — which will total 4,000 — this summer. It is opening a training academy in Elizabethtown.

To help ease next year’s population bubble, a 194-room hotel that has been built on post will serve as temporary quarters. Also, Wilson Road is being widened and more sidewalks are being built.

State Sen. Elizabeth Tori, R-Radcliff, on Friday said areas around the post need $200 million in state funding — in addition to a previously requested $100 million — for roads, water and sewer.

“Actually, the money was needed yesterday,” she said. “Base realignment is here; it’s happening.” And if water and sewer lines can’t be provided for new development, incoming workers will live somewhere else, Tori said.

Rep. Tim Moore, R-Elizabethtown, said the area’s water and sewer infrastructure will be able to handle the increase and shortfalls are being addressed. Part of the challenge is where to put it; officials must first see where people move.

“We don’t want to get the cart ahead of the horse,”  he said.

As for future infrastructure funding, Moore said he is confident it is high on officials’ list of priorities.

Discussions also are under way about the future of the Patton Museum, which brings in 120,000 visitors annually. Plans are to move the armor artifacts with the Armor School. Young soldiers are shown the pieces so they can see how armor has changed over the years, Freakley said.

The museum will retain Gen. George Patton’s personal items. Moore expects Patton’s quality of leadership will be emphasized.

He linked the changes at the museum to the post’s gaining the Accessions Command, which recruits future leaders.

“The Patton Museum will transition somewhat,” he said. “But it will still be the premier highlight of leadership, past present, and with the Accessions Command, future.”

John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.