November 16, 2015 – Times Record News (Witchita Falls), By Claire Kowalick
Bringing together common values and goals, the Wichita Falls City Council will consider a resolution to aid a project near the Sheppard Air Force Base main gate.
At its most recent meeting, the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corp. proposed a $1.25 million incentive for the Sheppard Air Force Base Transportation and Perimeter Security Project.
A resolution to amend the city budget to allow for this expenditure will be presented to the council at its meeting Tuesday.
The SAFB TPSP includes acquisition of properties at 4021, 4027, 4101, 4045 Burkburnett Road and 0.24 acres out of Lot 1, Blk. 1, Thaten & Barnes, Ab. 344 T.C.
Once these five parcels are acquired, funds will be used for demolition of seven buildings on the properties and construction of bus transportation facilities on the site.
Any excess land or funding after the city’s side of the project would be allocated to the base for its use.
The main objective of this project is to improve security at the main gate of the base and better position the base in case of a future Base Realignment and Closure.
Sheppard is Wichita Falls’ largest employer and is a vital asset to the local economy, city leaders say.
Total cost of the project is expected to be $3.5 million.
The city is set to grant this expenditure as matching funds for a Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant, which is administered through the Texas Military Preparedness Commission, Office of the Governor.
The Texas Legislature appropriated $30 million across the state to military communities previously affected by BRAC.
After clearing the property area, projects include an improved bus shelter and parking area for the Sheppard Express Bus Route.
The grant application is due Friday, and the city is requesting $1.75 million from the state with matching funds from the WFEDC of $1.25 million and city Federal Transit Funds of $500,000.
The matching funds will demonstrate local support for the project which may improve the city’s chances of gaining the state funds.
Jim Dockery, assistant city manager, said they should learn if they will receive the DEAA grant and how much they will be granted from the state by December or January.
The WFEDC deems the project necessary to retain primary jobs, promote and support Sheppard and maintain a safe perimeter along the main gate entrance.
The city may move forward with acquiring the property at 4027 Burkburnett Road before funding of the grant because the property is currently up for sale.
The city is set to offer the funds as a no interest, forgivable loan of $1.25 million for the project for a period of one year if the city and Sheppard retain 1,000 jobs for in the city.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey White, 82nd Mission Support Group deputy commander, said Sheppard is excited about the partnership with Wichita Falls and the possibility of a more secure and accessible main gate.
“The recent opportunity for grant funding presented by the Texas Military Preparedness Commission has opened the doors to finally addressing some post-9-11 concerns with the land parcels immediately adjacent to the main gate,” he said in a statement.
As part of this effort, the base is dusting off some old plans it had for improving the main gate’s road, accessibility and security.
While the city’s part will focus on the property adjacent to the base, the Sheppard side of the project would directly affect the roadway, traffic flow, guardhouse, and overall aesthetics of this critical corridor between the base and community.
“This gateway is also the first impression for thousands of our international partners participating in the Euro NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training (ENJJPT) and technical training, as well as tens of thousands of U.S. airmen and families each year,” White said.
A previous plan was for a $10 million, all-inclusive project to completely modify the traffic flow.
However, because of the fiscal environment and a pause in mission military construction funding, the larger project is not viable at this time.
The project will instead focus on core requirements for security and renewing infrastructure.
“The concept as envisioned would ultimately capitalize on the city’s current grant and cost share efforts to address the security concerns of the parcels of land immediately outside of the gate,” he said.
The information above is for general awareness only and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of Economic Adjustment or the Department of Defense as a whole.