October 29, 2009 10:38:00 AM
Columbus Air Force Base has received more than $25 million in end-of-year funds for upgrades to roads, buildings and other work -- an unprecedented level of funding that should be a boon to local contractors during the sluggish economy, base officials said Tuesday.
Each year, the Air Force redistributes unused funds that had been earmarked for other uses, back out to worthy projects submitted by bases. The money received by Columbus is double last year''s amount, Col. Ken Bryson, commander of the base''s mission support group, said during a meeting with local business people on the base''s Community Council.
Some of the projects have been "on the books for many, many years, and this year, we''re going to get to fix them," Bryson said. The base came out ahead in funding by working over the past a year on a competitive list of shovel-ready projects to sell to higher Air Force officials, he said.
"We kept emphasizing why it''s important for the community, why it''s important for the base," Bryson said.
Projects slated for the base range from repairing and repainting parking lots and runways, to a $4 million renovation of officers'' dormitories and a $2.9 million renovation of the wing commander''s headquarters building.
The base also plans to repair roofs on buildings base-wide; renovate the wing''s repair hangar, which was originally built to service B-52 bombers; and to build new munition storage buildings, replacing buildings constructed in the ''50s.
Funds will also be used for ongoing projects that are upgrading security on the base, including anti-terror vehicle barriers that are being installed at the base''s new main and south gates, also under construction.
"A lot of the projects we have now are to protect the assets on the Air Force base, to protect the airmen," Bryson said.
The impact of the projects will be felt off base, Bryson said -- of each dollar spent by CAFB, 94 cents goes to area small businesses, he said. And, even when contracts are awarded to out-of-town companies, 70 percent of contract amounts are spent on local employment and materials.
Col. Roger Watkins, wing commander, told a story of an unnamed local contractor who, upon receiving a base contract, said he would be able to rehire workers he had just laid off.
"That''s the kind of direct economic impact that Columbus Air Force Base can have on the local community," Watkins said. "That, to me, is what it''s all about."
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