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Aviano 2000 projects: 97 down, two to go

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — The Aviano 2000 construction program has reached a point where its director can count the projects not yet started on a single hand.

And Lt. Col. Ken Polasek doesn’t even need five fingers to do it.

“When we look back in a few years, we’ll see that 2005 was really a big year,” Polasek said Tuesday.

He said that only two of the 99 projects that make up the $610 million program — one of the world’s largest ongoing military transformations — have yet to start: a flight simulator and a base library. Both have been funded, though, and construction is expected to start next year.

Polasek said the latest estimates have the last projects in the program — renovation of three base hangars and four warehouse sites — finishing around 2012.

The latest opening was an arts and crafts center near the new child development center. The facility, with space for woodworking, auto skills and digital photography, opened in late November.

The next up? The refurbished Italian dining facility on Area 2 that will house classes for the Airman Leadership School and First Term Airmen Course. It should be ready within a month.

Several other facilities will open soon. They include:

  • A new fire station east of the runway. The Italian air force is expected to turn it over for American use in early January.
  • A headquarters building for the 510th Fighter Squadron. Located along the perimeter road west of the runway, it should start seeing use by the “Buzzards” in early January.
  • The indoor firing range to the north of the new fire station is undergoing some retrofitting to meet Italian specs and should be open in the summer. In the meantime, concrete pillars for a $3.4 million security forces headquarters — set to open next fall — are filling the empty space between the firing range and fire station.
  • The $27.6 million medical treatment facility — the largest project in the program in terms of money — is set to open in June on Area 1. Once it’s open, the existing structure will undergo renovation and will reopen in 2008.

Polasek said almost all of the funds for the medical center come from NATO and about half the funds during the calendar year were delivered via NATO.

That kind of funding makes Aviano unusual, but the base also boasts a handful of U.S. military projects similar to bases around Europe. Several of those, which aren’t included in Aviano 2000, are sprouting up around base:

  • An 8,000-square-foot facility for the family housing office is going up near the contractor’s gate on the flight line. It will replace space currently off base when it opens in the winter of next year.
  • Ground has been shifted for a new shoppette across the street and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service hopes to have it open in the summer.
  • About 28,000 cubic yards of concrete later, the south ramp is set to be open for traffic in the next few weeks. It will be the home for up to 12 C-130s or five C-17s visiting the base at a time.

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