By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneOctober 28, 2009
Disaster contingency plans, antiterrorism and force protection programs, emergency drills and pandemic influenza plans were all on the table for discussion during an annual meeting that brought Alabama's commanders to Redstone Arsenal.
The Alabama Commanders' Summit, started by Gov. Bob Riley, involves commanders from the state's three military installations - Redstone Arsenal, Fort Rucker and Maxwell Air Force Base - as well as state commanders and state emergency officials.
"The vision of Governor Riley was to bring all of the state, federal and local emergency managers together so that we know each other, and we know each other's assets and capabilities," said Alvin Odoms, the Garrison's director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. "So, now, if we have to call on each other we know who can best help with the emergency that we are dealing with."
This is Redstone's second time to host the event, which rotates between the state's three installations.
"This is about preparing for a holistic state approach to an emergency or disaster," Odoms said. "Every post and military company in the state has capabilities and it's good to know what those capabilities are in time of need. Because of these summits, we know each other and we can work together as a team. We are part of each other's emergency teams."
This year's summit was chaired by Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli and included presentations from Redstone commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles and state's National Guard adjutant general, Maj. Gen. A.C. Blalock.
"This is a total team effort of all levels of leadership working together as a team," Odoms said.
It is unknown if similar programs are being coordinated in other states. But Odoms said Georgia emergency officials attended the Redstone conference in preparation of organizing their own statewide emergency network.
"This program could very well be translated across the U.S.," Odoms said. "This summit is unique to us."
Besides emergency operations, summit participants were also given the opportunity to become more familiar with Redstone Arsenal and the local North Alabama community. Part of that familiarization was providing them with information on the area's growth, including the Arsenal's soon-to-be formalized enhanced use lease project.
"EUL is an Army program started several years ago to gain money off property, buildings or land that wasn't needed for the mission," said Joe Davis, director of public works.
The EUL involves 480 acres on the northwest area of the Arsenal near Gate 9 that is now being used as agricultural land. The land is considered prime real estate for business development because of its Arsenal location and its proximity to Cummings Research Park.
The Garrison has entered into an agreement with Joe Wilson and Associates of Montgomery and Corporate Office Properties Trust to develop the EUL. Currently, the city of Huntsville is finalizing plans to approve the construction bond, to provide fire and police service to the area and to have the land annexed into the city. The Garrison is working on plans to move Gate 9 and the visitors center so that the EUL is outside the Arsenal fence, and to move an electrical substation.
The groundbreaking for the EUL is planned for the spring.
Davis said much consideration was involved in choosing the partners in the EUL. Corporate Office Properties Trust is a specialty office real estate investment trust that focuses on strategic customer relationships and specialized tenant requirements in the government, defense information technology and data sectors. COPT acquires, develops, manages and leases properties which are typically concentrated in large office parks primarily located adjacent to government demand drivers and/or in growth corridors. Sixty-eight percent of COPT's business is government-related.
"This is a good marriage. They will take underutilized federal land that will not be on post and turn it into a 4 million square foot office park," Davis said. "We will lease the land to them for 50 years.
It will take eight to 10 years to build it out. But when it's done, the land will go from agricultural land rented annually for $17,000 to a business development that will bring us $2 million plus a year.
"It's real money. It's green money that goes into an escrow account to be spent by the commander for Garrison projects at Redstone."
With an annual average of $40 million in construction projects on the Arsenal, the funds will be needed to continue the Arsenal's growth.
"The EUL represents over $500 million of private investment money," Davis said. "It will be one of the hottest places for administrative space. It will provide much needed space for offices, research and development, academics and conferences. As BRAC winds down, the EUL will be ramping up."