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Fort Knox’s garrison commander said a new medical wing could break ground by fall and a cost-cutting energy model will save millions of dollars annually for the installation once online.
Col. Bruce Jenkins said the post is pursuing a new clinic focused on outpatient procedures, the first phase of a larger project that eventually could replace Ireland Army Community Hospital. Jenkins unveiled details Monday evening for both initiatives during Elizabethtown City Council’s meeting.
The new clinic is slated to cost $300 million and will work in tandem with the post hospital, one of the oldest active in the U.S. Army, according to Fort Knox officials.
Jenkins said the Army will review the clinic’s utilization rates once open and determine if a second phase is justifiable, which would lead to construction of a $200 million inpatient tower that would create more bed space on post and essentially stand as a second hospital.
At that juncture, there may no longer be a need for Ireland Army Community Hospital, which could be closed and redeveloped for a new use, said Ryan Brus, public relations officer.
Jenkins said the first phase of construction will take roughly two years and the clinic will offer the typical array of outpatient procedures found elsewhere.
“It’s really full service,” he said.
He also discussed development of an “energy island” that should go live in the next year-and-a-half. Centered on building about half a dozen substations, Fort Knox will be able to harness alternative energy to shave use — cutting peak surges of power, he said.
The post has its own methane gas wells and solar panels, but it can also draw off diesel fuel and geothermal technology to fall “completely off the grid,” according to Jenkins. That would allow the post to operate independent of an electricity source through temporary use of the island, he said.
Such technology would be the first utililized in the Army and prove advantageous during disasters, ice storms or potential terrorist attacks, Jenkins said.
Furthermore, it will create significant savings for the post, to the tune of $8 million each year. Jenkins said the post averages around $1 million in monthly energy costs, which would be doubled or tripled if Fort Knox had not already developed methods to monitor its energy costs, cutting its output by 40 percent. An unprecedented drop, he said, considering most installations are seeing increases in energy usage each year.
Jenkins said the post’s award-winning energy and family programs have made Fort Knox a standard bearer for the Army, allowing post officials to leverage it as an “installation of choice.”
“I think it’s only going to be more gains (for Fort Knox),” he said.
Jenkins, who will relinquish his command this summer, said he is proud of the efforts made during his tenure to improve access to post and to upgrade its facilities, tearing down older properties to create “white space” for new commands and constructing a new warrior transition complex for wounded soldiers.
One looming uncertainty is the possibility of budget cuts and furloughs for Fort Knox employees because of spending cuts triggered by sequestration.
Maj. Gen. Jefforey Smith, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, has estimated the fiscal impact on Fort Knox will be $134 million over the next six months with the forced furlough of up to 5,200 Army civilians for 22 work days from April to September. This, Smith said, could result in a total salary reduction of up to $32 million.
To save money, departments are reducing energy usage, reviewing contracts and limiting budgets.
Jenkins said he hopes the nation’s lawmakers make decisions to ease the burden but Fort Knox will meet the directives without eliminating programs or services.
“We’ll figure it out,” he said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.
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