Funding is area of concern for Blue Grass Army Depot's construction plans

gkocher1@herald-leader.comMarch 12, 2013 

RICHMOND — Madison Countians continue to monitor federal funding for construction of the plant that will destroy chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot.

Of particular interest now is House Resolution 933, which has been passed by the House and awaits consideration in the Senate, Craig Williams, co-chair of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board, said at Tuesday's board meeting at Eastern Kentucky University.

The resolution authorizes $151 million in construction dollars for the Defense Department program in charge of destroying chemical weapons at Blue Grass Army Depot in Madison County and at another plant under construction in Pueblo, Colo. It includes $627 million for research, development, testing and evaluation of equipment associated with that program, known as Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives.

Williams said there is a 60 percent chance that the resolution will pass if it survives a House-Senate conference committee.

If the resolution doesn't pass, local officials might have to push for a "reprogramming," a tactic that redirects money from other defense projects. A similar reprogramming late last year meant $36.4 million for the Madison County project.

Automatic budget cuts could come in the form of furloughs for 28 Department of the Army civilian personnel and others associated with the project, said Jeff Brubaker, site project manager for the Madison County plant.

If a resolution isn't found, those 28 people will, beginning April 22, take one unpaid furlough day each week for 22 weeks. Brubaker would be among those civilian employees.

The plant is 65 percent complete, Brubaker said Tuesday. There are 978 people employed at the plant site, and 69 others are employed in Washington state, California, Ohio and Maryland.

In another matter, Tom McKinney, project manager for the contractor building the plant, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, announced that he will be moving to Great Britain in May to take a Bechtel position in the United Kingdom.

McKinney's successor will be Doug Omichinski, his counterpart in Pueblo, Colo.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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