Canton Repository

May 14, 2005

New site in Akron to serve reservists

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is proposing to build a mega-reserve center in Akron to accommodate hundreds of Navy and Marine reservists whose bases in Akron and Cleveland are recommended for closure, military officials said Friday.

The plan for the joint reserve center became public when the Pentagon released its base closure recommendations, which could affect some reservists who live in Stark and Tuscarawas counties.

“It’s all part of the transitional plan ... to get the services more aligned with one another,” said Navy Cmdr. Charlie Strassle, head of the Navy-Marine Corps Reserve Center in Akron. Under the plan, that center would close, with its units being relocated to a proposed joint facility to be completed within two to six years.

The recommendations from the Defense Department call for the closure, realignment or expansion of 19 Reserve or National Guard facilities across the state as part of a nationwide effort to employ resources more efficiently and effectively in the military.

It is now up to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission to make any changes it deems necessary in the proposal before sending it to President Bush and then Congress for approval or rejection.

Ohio bases would gain a net of 241 jobs if the proposal were enacted.

Wright Patterson Air Force Base, by far the largest military installation in Ohio, would gain almost 500 jobs under the plan.

The proposal would hit some areas of the state relatively hard, such as Cleveland, which would lose more than 1,100 jobs. Other parts of the state would benefit. Columbus, for example, gains more than 2,200 jobs under the plan.

“It’s mixed,” Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Cedarville, said of the impact of the plan on Ohio. “We didn’t do too bad, but there’s certainly some dark spots.”

Among the losers would be Mansfield, home of the 179th Airlift Wing, where almost 300 jobs would be lost with closure of the Air Force and Army National Guard bases.

Gov. Bob Taft expressed disappointment in the proposed closure or realignment of installations in Cleveland, Mansfield and Springfield in particular.

“At this point in the process, we must remember that these are only recommendations,” said Taft, who promised to work with communities to reverse their inclusion on the list.

Military units at Youngstown Air Reserve Station escaped cuts, which local officials feared could threaten the survival of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport. The air station employs more than 2,400 workers.

The area’s congressman, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, praised military personnel and residents whom he said “convinced the Department of Defense that our air base is too important to the military needs of the nation to be closed.”

DeWine credited Ryan for steering additional funds to the air station, which he said made it a stronger candidate for survival.

Closer to home, more than 400 Navy and Marine reservists who train at the Akron reserve center would be relocated to the proposed joint center in Akron. At least some of these reservists are from Stark County, Strassle said.

Another 364 Navy reservists who train at the Navy Reserve Center in Cleveland also would be relocated to the proposed joint facility.

Two Navy officials who confirmed the plan to build a joint center were unsure where or when it would be built. But Lt. Erin Bailey, a Navy spokeswoman, said she has been told the existing Navy-Marine Center in Akron would be renovated and expanded into the proposed joint facility.

The center, which could have Army and Air Force personnel as well as Navy and Marines, is among 125 joint reserve facilities that are planned across the country.

Closing the Navy-Marine Center in Akron would cost 26 full-time jobs, while closure of the Navy Center in Cleveland would cost another 25 jobs, the Pentagon said.

The cost of closing the two centers would be $11.8 million, according to a report. But the closure would save the military $1.7 million every year thereafter, effectively paying for itself within seven years, the Pentagon said.

In another planned move unrelated to the BRAC recommendations, two Army Reserve Centers in Akron are scheduled to move to a new location near the Akron-Canton Regional Airport next year.

A $12 million Army Reserve Center is under construction in the AkCan Industrial Park off Highland Park Street NW in Lake Township, officials said.

Under the base-closing proposal, the Cleveland area would lose 1,028 jobs as a result of cuts at Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Cleveland.

The military has proposed consolidating finance and accounting functions in Indianapolis.

The Columbus area would gain 1,758 jobs at the Defense Supply Center in Columbus.

Other bases that would close under the plan include the Army National Guard Reserve Center in Westerville, Defense Finance and Accounting Service in Dayton, Parrott Army Reserve Center in Kenton and Army Reserve Center in Whitehall.

Copley News Service correspondent Otto Kreisher contributed to this story.