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Aviano projects coming online slowly but surely

Control tower now open; firing range delayed

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2006

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A quick drive around the home of the 31st Fighter Wing might make you think of a large, sprawling development in Southern California that mixes residential and commercial uses.

One that’s had trouble finding tenants to fill a few of its retail spots.

But while a handful of facilities at Aviano appear to have been sitting vacant for months (and months), they most definitely do have tenants waiting to use them. And base officials say that appearances can be deceiving.

“You get 90 percent of the project done and it looks finished from the outside,” said Capt. Jason Yates of the wing’s project management office.

“But there’s still work to be done.”

Sometimes that involves the installation of furniture or equipment that’s part of the standard timetable. Other times, buildings are just waiting for the various levels of inspections that have to be conducted. Yet other times, those inspections find problems that need to be fixed.

“There are differences between Italian and American standards that have to be resolved,” said Ken Watson, deputy commander of the 31st Mission Support Group.

For instance, the indoor firing range has sat unused across from the dormitories near the main route around the base. American standards require mechanisms in place so a round would be captured in the direction of the targets. Italian standards require material to capture errant rounds over a much wider area. A new contract will be awarded in the fall to install more material. So no target practice this year.

Watson said Italian authorities do review every blueprint for each project, but regulations sometimes change during a sometimes laborious process that involves awarding contracts, design, funding and construction.

That’s especially true with all the players involved in the $610 million Aviano 2000 construction program. Much of the money is coming from NATO, with Aviano being the alliance’s largest ongoing construction project.

Spain held up funding for several projects for more than a year. One of those projects was the $29 million medical treatment facility that just opened this week. Another was a new base library, which also was held up by a change in U.S. force protection rules that pushed it back from the base perimeter to another location and required a new design. That will now be one of the last of the 99 projects that make up the Aviano 2000 program.

A few other high-profile projects near the firing range on the flight line have experienced a variety of delays but are starting to come online.

The highest of them — literally — is the base’s new control tower. The $2.3 million facility — the tallest building on base at more than 102 feet — opened earlier this month. The second fire station on the flight line could be open any day, according to Brad Beam, deputy commander of the 31st Civil Engineer Squadron.

Beam said not every project at Aviano has run behind schedule. The new education center on Area 2 — sitting on the site of the former base club — is ready, but empty. It’s just waiting for teachers to return from summer break.


Want an office with a view? Become an air traffic controller with the Air Force at a place such as Aviano Air Base. American staff sergeants Scott Bolster, left, and Greg Edwards work Friday in the base’s newly opened control tower.
KENT HARRIS / S&S

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