TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. -- Years of planning are coming to fruition as Tobyhanna Army Depot contends with a construction schedule full of large and small projects designed to modernize facilities and enhance safety and security initiatives.

This fiscal year, the depot has invested $34 million in nearly two dozen renovation, new construction and upgrade projects. Employees working in three Public Works Directorate (DPW) divisions are responsible for maintaining all the facilities, roads and grounds on the installation; actions that include monitoring hundreds of workers at several construction sites.

The century-old Army installation consists of 146 buildings, 13 parking lots, 18 miles of road, and 1,296 acres of land.

Last year, Tobyhanna embarked on one of its largest and most complex projects after breaking ground on the new Scranton Gate access. Since then, security personnel have managed to maintain the flow of traffic in and out of the installation, while performing security checks and truck inspections amid the chaos of construction equipment and workers.

The multi-phase project includes building a new visitor's control center (VCC) and redesigning the entry control point. The new gate also incorporates a number of force protection and anti-terrorism systems and devices. The VCC will allow the security division to provide more streamlined processing of visitors.

"Although bad weather slowed construction efforts early on, the project is back on schedule," according to
Garth Shull, Engineering Division chief, adding that it's been a challenge to keep the gate open while work continues.

Changes to traffic patterns and other processes to minimize employee discomfort and increase efficiency have made it possible for depot personnel to watch as the new gate takes shape as they maneuver their way on and off the installation each day.

Adjacent to the Scranton Gate construction, contractors are revamping the entire waste water treatment system. The multi-million dollar upgrade will include installing a state-of-the-art sequential batch reactor and the supporting equipment to operate it.

"The project also includes the installation of large holding tanks and underground piping, and constructing new support buildings and demolishing the old structures," said John Lyman, mechanical engineer directing the project.

Several of the depot's 1950s era buildings are undergoing renovations from making room for new office space to installing exterior windows and doors.

Workers are converting vast amounts of warehouse space into offices, conference rooms, classrooms and storage space, according to Peter Moore, mechanical engineer overseeing several multi-million dollar renovation projects. He also mentioned that some of the renovation plans include new lights and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, plus an aesthetic upgrade in Building 2, Bays 5 and 6. Moore is also supervising an equipment upgrade in Building 9.

"We're removing an old blast booth and installing a new paint booth in Building 9," Moore said, pointing out that to remove the old dust collector system the contractor will use a crane. While the crane is in operation, the road will be closed between Building 9 and 55 and pedestrians must avoid this area.

Select security functions will move into Building 16 once the warehouse renovation is complete. The new 10,000 square foot central command center will house office space, locker rooms, sleeping quarters and multi-use areas for training, meetings and special presentations.

"The newly renovated bay in Building 3 will provide space for electronics benches along with smart columns," Moore said. The smart columns are a new design Tobyhanna is implementing to increase efficiency, he explained noting that each smart column provides multiple electrical outlets, data drops and compressed air connections on all four sides. "This layout is designed to ensure every bench will have adequate resources right at the bench."

Building 3 will also have a new break area and computer stations.

Tobyhanna's construction projects are funded through a variety of programs depending on the nature of the work and type of facility being built or renovated.

Several projects are part of a pre-existing energy savings performance contract. Brian Decker, a mechanical engineer in DPW explained that generally these types of projects are not funded up front, but paid for via the energy savings. "In this case, by adding new equipment to the contract we were able to refinance the existing debt at a lower rate. In doing so, we're saving a lot of money."

According to Decker, the depot is getting rid of old, inefficient equipment and systems and upgrading to more environmentally friendly items.

"The primary purpose of these projects is to generate energy savings and reduce energy consumption while enhancing performance for the users," Decker said. "By using methods like the energy savings performance contract, Tobyhanna is able to reap the benefits without spending a dime."

The makeup air and heating systems in Buildings 74 and 1E are being completely replaced because of a failing steam line to one and the condition of the heating equipment in both. Decker noted that Tobyhanna is transitioning from aging steam systems to more efficient natural-gas fired equipment.

In addition, two steam-heated, spray cure paint booths in Building 9 are getting new air handling equipment and another booth is being retrofitted with energy recovery hardware to reclaim heat energy from the exhaust air.

It often takes years to lay the ground work for construction projects; officials here normally plan five years in advance. One project managed by Civil Engineer Jim Secoolish will set the stage for future obligations.

"We're creating enough office space in Building 2 to accommodate more than 400 employees," Secoolish said, noting that he believes this will be the largest swing space Tobyhanna has ever created. "The plan is to renovate the 1A mezzanine area as soon as funding is approved."

The project includes renovating three bays -- two will be converted into office areas, conference rooms, break rooms and new bathrooms. All new electrical, fire and HVAC systems will be installed, along with new carpet and tile. The third bay will consist of classrooms, training areas and a satellite cafeteria with seating. The estimated completion date for this project is March 2014, said Secoolish.

As current projects are completed, others will begin. With an eye to the future, DPW personnel will continue to update an aging installation and improve the quality of life for the work force.

Tobyhanna Army Depot is the Defense Department's largest center for the repair, overhaul and fabrication of a wide variety of electronics systems and components, from tactical field radios to the ground terminals for the defense satellite communications network. Tobyhanna's missions support all branches of the Armed Forces.

About 3,500 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., the command's mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.