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Pentagon to spend $182 million to finish McClellan cleanup

By Ben Evans
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has agreed to spend almost $182 million to finish cleaning up environmental waste and weapons remnants at the former Fort McClellan installation in Anniston, clearing the way for more private development at the shuttered Army post.

Local officials have been working to lure houses, stores and businesses to the site since the installation closed in 1999 through the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

With a military community of some 10,000 people, the post had been a major economic driver in the area.

Long time coming

Leftover explosives and munitions from the post's days as a weapons training center — as well as soil and water contamination — have been major impediments.

Thursday's announcement calls for most of the funding to be released in grants over the next several years, starting with a first installment of $59 million.

The agreement gives local officials flexibility in deciding which areas to clean up as developers approach them with ideas, said Miki Schneider, director of planning at the McClellan Joint Powers Authority, which is overseeing the redevelopment.

It also will make land available for a new parkway that will make the site more accessible and attractive to developers.

"It has been a long time coming," Schneider said. "It is so critical for communities that have had base closures and have lost jobs: You've got to be able to respond quickly when somebody knocks on your door."

At an afternoon signing ce-
remony on Capitol Hill, Anniston Mayor Hoyt Howell, Rep. Mike Rogers, who represents Anniston, and Alabama Sens. Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions commended the Army for coming through with the money.

"Pretty soon Anniston will be one of the cleanest cities in America," Sessions said, citing additional work the Army has done to incinerate nerve gas and other chemical weapons at the Anniston Army Depot.

Geoffrey Prosch, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army, said he cites McClellan as a model to other former military communities as a way to "get on with the future."

Fort McClellan encompassed some 45,000 acres.

About half of that — including Pelham Range — was transferred to the Alabama National Guard after it was closed, with the other half going to the Joint Powers Authority for redevelopment.

The authority subsequently transferred nearly 10,000 acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for use as the Mountain Longleaf National Wildlife Refuge, Schneider said.

To date, Schneider said, the Army has spent almost $27 million cleaning up the Joint Powers Authority land, which is being developed as a planned community named McClellan. The site, parts of which did not require any cleanup, is home to several hundred homes and businesses employing some 3,000 people, including a Honda supplier and a manufacturer of classical instruments.

The $182 million announced Thursday would finish remediating the Joint Powers Authority land, but work remains to be done in other areas of the former post.

Last spring, five soldiers were injured at Pelham Range when an ordnance exploded during a training exercise.

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