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Construction cash flows into base

Whidbey Island Naval Air Station will receive millions of dollars in federal funding for new construction on the base, following President Bush’s signing of a House bill last week authorizing the infusion of cash to the Department of Defense for military construction projects.

About $14 million will go to the naval air station this fiscal year for the construction of a P-3 aircraft support facility, a new air traffic control tower, and a water survival training facility, said U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, who serves on the House Committee on Armed Services and the Military Readiness Subcommittee.

Contracts must be awarded on the three projects by the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, 2002, said Cmdr. Steve Markey, the naval air station’s officer in charge of construction and public works officer. The base is already slated to receive more construction funds next fiscal year for the building of a combat aircraft loading area and a hot pit fueler facility, Markey said.

The P3 support facility and the water survival training facility are already designed and will probably be built first.

“I would guess springtime,” Markey said.

The air traffic control tower is yet to be designed, and so the contract will probably be awarded toward the end of the fiscal year, Markey said.

Larsen, a Democrat from Everett, requested much of this funding prior to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, recognizing the need for more modern facilities even before the current national security demands on the military.

“As a member of the Military Readiness Subcommittee, it is important to me that those who serve our country are provided with the best training and resources possible,” Larsen said in a news release. “Each day the men and women in the Navy wake up with the challenge of protecting our freedoms. I want to ensure that Congress does everything possible to help them meet that challenge.”

Four members of the military Readiness Subcommittee, led by chair Rep. Curt Weldon, visited Whidbey Island Naval Air Station about three months ago to assess the base’s needs. The four were on an information-gathering tour of 22 bases in four days, in order to see first hand the funding needs at a variety of military installations representing all four branches of service. Base officials discussed the need for a new control tower, the P3 facility and the training center with the Congressmen at that time.

The projects will provide another boost to the North Whidbey Island economy, as the base has used area contractors and subcontractors for its projects in the past. A taxiway project completed earlier this year contributed about $7 million to the local economy. Oak Harbor construction companies used for the taxiway project included Del-Jen Construction and Krieg Construction.

There is no requirement for the Navy to use local contractors, but often the ones based on Whidbey Island can offer a better deal than those that would need to move equipment from off-island, Markey said. Rather than award the bid to the lowest bidder, the base follows a “source selection” method, which means seeking the best value for the quality and the price.

Even if the successful contractor is from off the island, Markey said, they would probably hire local labor and purchase supplies here.

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