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Gone With The Wind?

A Nearly All-Government Local Redevelopment Authority Prepares To Rubber-Stamp A Tourism Development Plan For Naval Station Roosevelt Roads That Will Repeat The Disaster Of Aguadilla’s Ramey Air Force Base


January 15, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

By hook or by crook: The Enormous Economic Development Potential Of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads May Wither Away As The Calderon Administration Steamrolls Its Own Redevelopment Plan For The Former Navy Base Without Significant Input From The Private Sector And Despite Widespread Opposition From The Local Community.

The Calderon administration’s plan to break up the 8,600 acres of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads (NSRR) in Ceiba into a multitude of individually owned real-estate projects could spell an economic development disaster for Puerto Rico like that caused by the closure of Aguadilla’s Ramey Air Force Base in the 1970s.

Furthermore, the haphazard development of this economically attractive property could conflict with the need for the U.S. naval armed forces to retain some military presence on the island in case of a terrorist threat, for example, the only crossing of the Western Hemisphere: the Panama Canal.

The situation is even more worrisome given the tardiness with which the current government administration reacted to news of the NSRR’s closing. Besides failing to recognize the warning signs that have been evident ever since the U.S. Navy was forced to withdraw from Vieques in May 2003 (CARIBBEAN BUSINESS anticipated the closing of the NSRR as early as June 2001), the government has dragged its feet in putting together an inclusive action plan for the entire region. When the government finally acted in September, it rushed to hire a group of consultants to establish a redevelopment plan.

Instead of creating a consensus group made up of representatives from affected towns in the region and acting as a leader and facilitator with their full input on behalf of the municipalities and the private sector, the consulting group has kept a tight lid on the results of its proceedings. Furthermore, the trustworthiness of the group’s final decision may be put into question by a conflict of interest on the part of one of the group’s consultants. CB Richard Ellis, a real-estate specialist in charge of land development at the Calderon administration’s Port of the Americas project.

In 2003, the Department of Economic Development & Commerce (EDC) hired CB Richard Ellis to devise a master plan for the value-added activities in the area surrounding the Ponce port’s harbor. The real-estate company’s role in the Port of the Americas project would practically preclude a recommendation to develop a transshipment port at the NSRR.

Politics also may be involved in the final redevelopment decision. Since it became obvious the U.S. Navy definitely was leaving the NSRR, the Calderon administration has said it prefers to turn the property into a tourism-based complex. In turn, opposition party gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Pedro Rossello had announced several months ago his intention to develop a transshipment port in Ceiba if the U.S. Navy withdrew from the base.

The government’s actions are worryingly similar to those taken in 1973, when Ramey Air Force Base was turned over to the government of Puerto Rico. While the use of that land had been negotiated by the Ferre administration, the land was transferred during the administration of Rafael Hernandez Colon.

In the absence of a specific plan for the base, the management of its 3,796 acres was fragmented, with various government agencies and private groups taking over several areas for their own uses. This action prevented the development of an overall plan that would have brought economic development to the whole region, as happens with base closures on the U.S. mainland.

The Punta Borinquen Administration & Development Authority was created in 1979 so the base’s former military-housing units could be sold at low cost, but the problems due to mismanagement remain. Now, the government is once again managing the area, with no better long-range economic-planning results than before.

Is the NSRR another economic development disaster in the making? Are we doomed to make the same mistakes at NSRR that were made in Ramey?

"[The NSRR’s closing] has all the elements of a huge economic disaster for the region," Retired Lt. Col. Patrick J. Balcazar told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS, comparing what he has learned about the NSRR closing with other base-closing efforts in which he has participated. "We are headed the same way as Ramey. There is no participation from the private sector. Until [the government] realizes that only the private sector can add energy, planning, and direction to the NSRR’s economic development, we are headed for disaster."

Balcazar is also concerned about the terms of the base transfer, indicating there is still the possibility the military will try to sell the land.

"The Army has been trying to retain [more than] 100 acres for military use, but they haven’t been transferred to them yet. These are hard times for the U.S. Navy, and they could try to sell the land to raise funds," said Balcazar. "Besides, until the NSRR closing appears in the Base Realignment & Closure [BRAC] program’s budget, there won’t be funds available for economic development. If you want to know how sincere the federal government is, take a look at the budget. I haven’t seen the necessary funds for the NSRR closing yet, and I have been looking for three years."

The BRAC program’s federally mandated regulations provide for the federal government to negotiate the land transfer with a local redevelopment authority (LRA). Most, if not all, of the LRAs involved in base closures across the country have been made up primarily of top business leaders who study the possible uses of the terrain and lead the redevelopment effort with the approval of the federal government. Since 1988, there have been dozens of cases in which the management has been left in the hands of LRAs led by the private sector and nonprofit organizations.

The Calderon administration, in concert with Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz Maldonado and economic consultant Estudios Tecnicos President Jose Joaquin Villamil, met on Dec. 11, 2003 with members of the Puerto Rico Association of Realtors (PRAR) to discuss the firm’s preliminary redevelopment plan and the real-estate opportunities that would be available. Before the consulting group had been selected or the LRA had been formed, the administration had been heralding the use of the NSRR as a tourism-focused project, giving the appearance the LRA was just a rubber stamp for the sake of compliance with federal regulations.

Most of the PRAR’s presentation emphasized using 3,000 of the property’s 8,600 acres for tourism facilities such as hotels, a marina, a cruise ship port, and for a waterfront-housing development. Some Realtors, particularly a few from Ceiba, expressed concern about flooding the market with new housing; they noted that by the time the NSRR closes in March, there will be more than 2,000 empty housing units that had been used by officers and enlisted personnel.

Another concern was how the additional hotels or tourism facilities in the region would fare. They said tourism projects in the region hadn’t opened because of a lack of interest by hotel developers and operators, to which the administration responded by proposing confidence in the region’s economic upturn—sort of an "if you build it, they will come" mentality. The NSRR land transfer could also fall prey to the fact that in 10 months, after this year’s elections, most, if not all, of the government members appointed during this administration won’t be holding office. The current plan needs the continuity and stability that the nonpartisan private sector can offer during this crucial time for the region.

The Calderon administration’s efforts on behalf of the NSRR

The EDC waited until August 2003 to put together a consulting team to help draft a redevelopment plan for the NSRR. On Oct. 2, 2003, EDC Secretary Milton Segarra made public a "Preliminary Concept Identification Report for U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads Reuse Study." According to the report, the preliminary redevelopment plan has relied primarily on published materials about the base and on local government and community leaders since the group, including the government of Puerto Rico, had no access to Roosevelt Roads.

The sketchy plan proposes dividing nearly 5,000 acres of the base’s 8,600 acres into five areas: 500 acres for a tourism port; 1,250 for an ecotourism area among the mangroves; 1,500 for an airport; 1,250 for a science park, and 500 for a waterfront neighborhood. The remaining 3,600 acres would not be developed because they are environmentally protected wetlands.

The first area would consist of a tourism port near the existing piers. A terminal with port and embarkation facilities would be built at some piers to attract cruise ships. Plans also include the introduction of high-speed ferry service to the U.S. Virgin Islands, the relocation of the Fajardo ferry service to Vieques and Culebra, the construction of a new marina for yachts, and the creation of entertainment and retail facilities and a theme park.

The second area would be used for ecotourism activities. In conjunction with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, an ecologically sensitive park would be established in the northeastern section of the NSRR. The park would include walking trails and a visitors’ information center, similar to what is found at the Caribbean National Forest, known as El Yunque.

The EDC’s preliminary plan also calls for the NSRR’s existing 1,500-acre airport installation to complement and expand the business and tourism activity in the region. Redevelopment plans for this third area envision air-cargo distribution companies, charter flights, and commercial flights related to the area’s manufacturing activities.

A fourth area would host a science park—a research & development (R&D) or technology center focusing on biotechnology. The plan also entails a conference center and hotel, retail shops, and additional housing units.

The fifth area, encompassing 500 acres in the eastern part of the base, would be used for more housing and for a mixed-use area with businesses, restaurants, hotels, and a marina.

Questions, concerns, and opposition

In November 2003, EDC Secretary Milton Segarra announced the NSRR’s LRA had been organized, as required by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) BRAC program when transferring military installations. According to a press release by the administration distributed on Nov. 25, the DOD chose the EDC as the only entity recognized to represent the LRA during the federal process.

The LRA president, appointed by Gov. Sila Calderon, is Segarra, who heads the LRA work team, also selected by Calderon. The LRA is made up of Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, Natural & Environmental Resources Secretary Luis E. Rodriguez, Planning Board President Angel David Rodriguez, Tourism Co. Executive Director Jose Suarez, and Ports Authority Executive Director Miguel Soto. From the region, only Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz Maldonado, business-sector spokesperson Ruben T. Melendez, and community-area spokesperson Ramon Carrera Romero were included.

Opposition to the government’s efforts came almost immediately from a group of Ceiba residents angered because their town isn’t represented well in the decision-making process. Organized by environmentalist Rogelio Figueroa into a grassroots movement called the Alliance Pro Development of Ceiba (Aprodec), the community group objects to the state government’s plans to redevelop Ceiba to create opportunity and wealth for Puerto Rico and seeks to reclaim the land for the municipality of Ceiba.

"The inconsistencies in the government’s preliminary plan begin with the proposal to build more housing in an area where, once the base is closed, there [already] will be more than 2,000 [vacant units of various sizes] that had been used by the military," said Figueroa. "This is in addition to the proposed construction of a convention center, when there is an excess of convention space in the eastern region and no one knows whether the convention center built in San Juan will be profitable."

Figueroa also criticized building a science park based on biotechnology without having first developed R&D centers in local universities or considered the needs of the community. "The proposed plan excludes our communities, is designed by people not familiar with our communities, and is based on a model of high-impact economic development that doesn’t consider the demand for water reserves, road infrastructure, or the socioeconomic characteristics of Ceiba’s residents."

Aprodec’s plan for Ceiba calls for the immediate short-term reuse of the base’s facilities, including the hospital, schools, airport, hotels, housing, and golf courses, to provide economic development opportunities. The environmentally friendly plan also entails improving the use of Naguabo River to prevent the water shortages that occurred in surrounding municipalities because of the Navy’s use of the waterway.

Beyond Ceiba

Residents of the municipalities surrounding the NSRR already have been experiencing the inevitable results of the U.S. Navy’s withdrawal from Vieques. In July 2003, when CARIBBEAN BUSINESS spoke to business, community, and government representatives in the region, the outlook was grim at best (CB, Shock & Awe, July 17, 2003).

During a June 2001 U.S. congressional hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Vern Clark said the Navy would close the NSRR if it didn’t have use of the Vieques target range. He warned that the Navy spent $250 million to $300 million a year to operate the base. Until recently, the NSRR, the largest U.S. Navy base in terms of land, was home to close to 10,000 military personnel and their dependents along with more than 2,500 civilian employees.

With an annual payroll in excess of $200 million, close to $50 million in base operations, and another $100 million in off-base expenditures, the NSRR’s economic impact on the island was considerably greater than the number cited by Clark. The shortfall the region is now enduring began in 2003, when at least 32% of the base’s active-duty work force was ordered stateside. The rest of Navy personnel should have received their transfer orders by March 2004.

Construction companies’ contracts at the base were halted, rental contracts weren’t renewed, and the exodus of base personnel caused a housing glut where there was once a shortage. Ceiba Mayor Gerardo Cruz Maldonado sought the commonwealth government’s support to find ways to first, avoid the base closure and second, when that seemed inevitable, to come up with economic development ideas that would benefit the region.

Last week, CB asked some of the same area residents and business owners cited in last July’s Shock & Awe cover story about the government’s plans to redevelop the NSRR and the effect of the base’s partial closing on their businesses and communities.

As expected, the results were mixed for various reasons, including lack of information and professional interest.

Some of the interviewees simply weren’t familiar with the redevelopment plans and what alternatives, other than tourism, were available. An employee of Harbor Minimarket in Ceiba (name withheld) said she would prefer tourism because she doesn’t know what the other proposal is about. A Fajardo Wal-Mart employee said, "Tourism would be preferable because it would give people a chance to stay in nice hotels [presumably to be developed on the base] and visit Vieques."

Javier Cordova of Rio Grande’s Berwind Country Club also believes tourism is the best option, though he admitted not knowing much about the transshipment alternative. Cordova noted he has lost clients because they have moved back to the U.S. mainland. "Some of my friends who own rental apartments are having a lot of trouble finding tenants," he added.

Jose Ortiz of Dueñas Trailers, a longtime contractor at the naval base, said, "A transshipment port would be preferable to...a tourist area because there are plenty of other places in Puerto Rico to develop tourism. It makes sense because it would be a unique opportunity to distribute goods in the region since cargo-storage prices are lower than on the U.S. mainland."

Wayne Valines of Valines Industrial Laundry Inc., which provides laundry services to hotels and was a longtime contractor at the NSRR, is adamant that a transshipment port wouldn’t work.

"There are a lot of people talking about this, but they don’t know that the infrastructure to handle a transshipment port just doesn’t exist. In addition, transshipment ports need, by their very nature, to modernize and reduce personnel, whereas the hotel industry is much more labor-intensive," he said. "Everything is in place at Roosevelt Roads to develop the tourism industry. There is an airport, storage facilities for luggage, ecotourism, a golf course, tennis courts, movie theaters, and a supermarket. Nature has been respected and preserved at Roosevelt Roads, and a transshipment port would seriously change that."

Fajardo Mayor Anibal Melendez Rivera said, "Tourism is what gives economic strength to this whole region. If we take into account the new hotels coming up in this region, such as Paradisus Puerto Rico, we will have to consider the potential of developing the existing airport on the base. It could be used for international flights and for the expansion of this tourism area."

Rolando Feria of Parador La Familia in Fajardo is already feeling the impact of the base’s partial closing. He believes the establishment of tourism facilities would provide faster economic relief to the area because the infrastructure already exists, which is not true for a transshipment port.

"I have lost at least 20% in business, and the situation is worse than it was six months ago," said Feria. "We can see the effects everywhere, not only in Ceiba. Where I live in Luquillo, there are at least 12 houses for sale or rent."

Some still see the closing of the NSRR as beneficial. Virgilio Cepeda of Tiendas Donato in Fajardo said, "Our sales have increased by about 20%, probably as people start to visit stores outside the base’s PX [post exchange]."

Meanwhile, Craig Swiderski of Rio Grande’s Bahia Beach Plantation golf course, which didn’t have a great number of customers from the base, said, "It’s awful. A lot of our clients are leaving to find jobs on the U.S. mainland. If the golf course on the base closes, we may benefit. It’s difficult to say since those may be the same people who are losing their jobs and won’t have extra money to spend."

Other area residents were quite frank in expressing their concern if the state government takes over the NSRR’s redevelopment. "It is imperative that another federal agency takes over when the U.S. Navy leaves," said Tammy Davila of TL Realty in Fajardo. "My biggest fear is that the local government will take control of the area and then do nothing. People in the area are unnerved by the uncertainty of the whole situation; no one seems to know what is going to happen next."

On Oct. 2, 2003, the Department of Economic Development & Commerce (EDC) identified the members of the $700,000 consulting team that will draft the government’s redevelopment plan for Naval Station Roosevelt Roads. They are:

  • CB Richard Ellis Consulting, a real-estate & development company based in Los Angeles;
  • Cooper, Robertson & Partners, an architecture & urban design firm with headquarters in New York;
  • Moffatt & Nichol Engineers of Long Beach, Calif.; and
  • Puerto Rico Management & Economic Consulting Inc., a local firm whose principals are Mohinder S. Bhatia, Antonio Santiago Vazquez, Janet Scheff, and Owen Martinez Sandin.

The three stateside firms also have contracts with the EDC for the Port of the Americas project in Ponce.

Calderon’s successor likely to decide future of Roosevelt Roads


The disposition of Roosevelt Roads has become embroiled in the Puerto Rico gubernatorial elections, which will dominate island politics this year.

The Calderon administration, through Economic Development & Commerce Secretary Milton Segarra, now chairman of the Calderon-appointed local redevelopment authority (LRA), envisions Roosevelt Roads will be used for a collection of tourism-related and real-estate ventures. Opposition gubernatorial candidate and former Gov. Pedro Rossello, on the other hand, favors using Roosevelt Roads as a vast world-class transshipment port.

Popular Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate & Resident Commissioner Anibal Acevedo Vila, although presumed to favor the Calderon administration’s position—in fact, he is a member of the LRA—hasn’t gone on record with his vision for the civilian redevelopment of Roosevelt Roads.

This juncture has given observers cause to speculate whether the Calderon administration can ink deals for the base’s future development that would be binding on its successors before it leaves office. Specifically, will the process be so far advanced as to allow the Calderon administration to parcel out the land to real-estate developers and others in a way that ties the hands of whichever administration comes into office in January 2005?

The answer is: very unlikely.

According to the timetable proposed by the Calderon administration, the LRA would approve the final draft of the base’s redevelopment plan as early as July.

Even under the proposed accelerated timetable, there are any number of steps, mostly involving federal agencies such as the Department of Housing & Urban Development and the Department of Defense, which must be taken after the redevelopment plan is approved but before it is implemented.

For example, the Department of Defense has 12 months after the plan’s approval to develop its own plan and complete proper environmental documentation. That means August 2005, at best.

In any event, in Washington, Navy officials as well as interested parties in the Bush administration and in Congress are going to be monitoring developments closely. Some of their questions reflect their concerns: Who’s going to get this land? Is it only going to benefit speculators? Are the deals for its development and construction only going to go to friends through sweetheart deals that are so prevalent in Puerto Rico? What access to that harbor, so close to the Panama Canal, will the Navy retain in case of a national emergency? Concerns such as these were voiced by Adm. Robert Natter, commander in chief of the Atlantic Fleet, and by others in Washington during the negotiations leading to the closing announcement.

Even if either gubernatorial candidate’s plans for Roosevelt Roads could fit into the narrow time frame, the results could present the next governor with a headache that could take years to resolve. "If Calderon is able to make any deal before she leaves office and Rossello wins and doesn’t like it, he could throw it out and the whole thing could end up in costly litigation that drags on for years," said a Senate staffer.

"This is a big opportunity for Puerto Rico, and it can go well or it can go not so well, depending on how it is handled," said Farrow. "The confusion surrounding the resolution of this situation has already turned off Rep. Jerry Lewis [R-Calif.]. He was the one who came up with the original idea of closing Roosevelt Roads [CB Oct. 2, 2003]. At that time, he told Acevedo Vila this could take years. In the meantime, Acevedo Vila went over to the Senate and lobbied for consideration of Roosevelt Roads under an accelerated BRAC process. That move really upset Lewis."

Two powerful senators have a longtime involvement in Roosevelt Roads. Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) is a former secretary of the Navy, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), a powerful member of the Armed Services Committee, who was deeply involved in the Vieques controversy. He is now chairman of the Environment & Public Works Committee but remains deeply interested in the subject of the Navy in Puerto Rico.

The same concerns arose in conversations between CARIBBEAN BUSINESS and a number of Senate staffers. They said, "Senate members want the Navy to advise them what this valuable land is going to be used for. Some talk about sweetheart deals and ask into whose private hands are these lands going to fall." Senate members are described as very skeptical and determined to take a long, hard look at whatever deal is made.

"The attitude by many friends of Puerto Rico in Washington is that the rational thing to do is wait," said Farrow. "This shouldn’t be a partisan approach. Some are already questioning why the redevelopment authority is so top-heavy with government officials, with only one business and one community representative from the Ceiba area. They are also wondering how the people of Puerto Rico can think this process is democratic. It has to be borne in mind that the federal government isn’t going to rubber-stamp any proposal by the commonwealth government, especially if it involves the disposal of federal lands at anything but a fair-market value."

Roosevelt Roads transfer will take at least 18 months


Anyone in Puerto Rico who thinks the disposition of Roosevelt Roads, after its targeted closure March 31, is going to be easy should talk to officials in the Bush administration and congressional observers who see the process as drawn out and complicated.

A number of federal officials and congressional staffers interviewed said the negotiations could get sticky at times and lead to further complications in Puerto Rico’s federal relations, including the possible shutdown of Fort Buchanan.

"The most important thing for people in Puerto Rico to realize is that the BRAC [Base Realignment & Closure] process for the disposition of U.S. Naval Station Roosevelt Roads has to play out," said Jeffrey Farrow, a longtime observer of Washington developments regarding Puerto Rico.

Farrow said Roosevelt Roads will now be on a separate track. "That means it won’t have to go through the BRAC Commission, which could take up to a couple of years," he said. "The downside is that getting the BRAC process moved up for Roosevelt Roads could result in Fort Buchanan ending up as a casualty."

The U.S. Department of Defense has initiated preparations for the next round of military base closures under BRAC. It has ordered all base commanders to provide information on their installations. During his first year in office, President George W. Bush sought base closures in 2003. Congress balked but reluctantly agreed to permit more closures in 2005 and, in fact, enacted a law authorizing them (PL 107-107).

The information supplied by the base commanders will be given by Defense to an independent commission set up by Congress to recommend military bases in the U.S. (and its territories) for closure. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is on record as saying he believes the military has 20% to 25% excess capacity at its bases.

Under the Defense authorization bill (PL 108-136) enacted in November 2003, the Pentagon has until May 2005 to give the commission a list of bases recommended for closure. The Pentagon then picks which bases to close and the president submits that list to Congress, which must approve or reject the entire list.

Cumbersome BRAC process

When the Navy decides to close a facility, as in the case of Roosevelt Roads, several steps have to be taken. The Navy must act on requests for property from federal agencies. It must also include the facility in the surplus-property lists published in the Federal Register. In addition to receiving any of those proposals, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development may submit plans for reuse. The Navy must also complete an initial environmental survey and a full environmental analysis.

In both the House and the Senate, but particularly in the latter, there is considerable but muted resentment and bitterness toward Puerto Rico stemming from the Vieques controversy. "They [Puerto Rico] didn’t want the Navy to train down there and there was a lot of hostility, which increasingly sounded anti-American up here," said a Senate staffer.

Along with the Vieques aftermath is the attitude in the Navy as it seeks to downsize and control expenses. "In the end, the attitude was that we don’t want to make a bigger investment in a place like that because they don’t like us and besides, it would be a waste of taxpayers’ resources," said the staffer.

The General Accounting Office has recommended consolidating facilities in Puerto Rico, including moving those at Fort Buchanan to Roosevelt Roads. A number of officials involved indicated to CARIBBEAN BUSINESS that the neighborhood around Fort Buchanan has become increasingly densely urban.

A number of sources, in both the administration and Congress, said they are concerned about Fort Buchanan, particularly now that it no longer serves as headquarters to the U.S. Army Southern Command (Usarso), which relocated to Texas in 2003. "It could be on the chopping block once the process gets under way," said one House staffer. "Don’t forget there are going to be a lot of other local sites in mainland states backed by their respective senators and congressmen, most of whom will submit various reasons why such and such base should stay open. The main argument now offered is commissary outreach to retirees in Puerto Rico. Frankly, a much more valid reason was the presence of Usarso at Fort Buchanan, but it’s gone to Texas."

A number of Washington observers noted that the loud protests from some so-called supporters of Puerto Rico in the "get the Navy out of Vieques" movement have been silent about Roosevelt Roads, namely New York Gov. George Pataki and veteran Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).

Who’s still interested in the NSRR?


CARIBBEAN BUSINESS anticipated as early as 2001 (CB June 21, 2001) that the U.S. Navy’s withdrawal from Vieques would result in the closure of Naval Station Roosevelt Roads (NSRR), two years before the U.S. Congress voted on Sept. 30, 2003 to begin the transition process under the Base Realignment & Closure procedures.

On Dec. 22, 2003, Economic Development & Commerce (EDC) Secretary Milton Segarra admitted that the members of the local redevelopment authority (LRA) hadn’t been allowed to enter the NSRR until that time, presumably accompanied by members of the team consulting with the Puerto Rico government on the base’s redevelopment. The local government had to wait until Dec. 31 to receive the federal government’s inventory of the property. Federal agencies interested in on-base installations or land had until Jan. 2, 2004 to submit their transfer requests.

Four federal agencies have requested 255 of the 8,600 acres at the NSRR, Segarra said after a visit to Washington last week. They are the U.S. Army Reserve, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

CARIBBEAN BUSINESS learned from Retired Gen. Felix Santoni, the civilian aide to the secretary of the Army, that the U.S. Army has asked for 150 acres to establish a Joint Reserve Center for the U.S. Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.

"We requested 150 acres that include our present facilities within the Army Reserve Center plus other facilities that could serve as a joint reserve center," said Santoni. "The U.S. Navy came back with an offer of 800 acres in the Fort Bundy area, which doesn’t include our current facilities. This means we would have to partially rebuild some of our current facilities, which would mean incurring more costs. This month [January], we have to submit our development plan with a budget.

"I understand there were various federal agencies interested in the NSRR, but the fact is they need more than interest to be there," added Santoni. "Maintenance costs money, and the question is whether they will have the economic resources to keep their facilities going."

A military source interviewed said, "I understand that at a high-level DOD meeting, the value of letting the NSRR go was discussed, with one of the officers saying that if you gave it away, you would never be able to get it back. The areas of most interest to the military still are the harbor and the airport."

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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