Aviano's ongoing construction project encounters a few setbacks

A small part of the lunch crowd crosses in front of the building that will soon house the base post office and a mass briefing area/movie theater complex at Aviano Air Base, Italy. The existing postal facility will then handle package delivery. The project is part of the base’s ongoing construction project, Aviano 2000.


By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 11, 2005

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — Even for those familiar with this Air Force base, the name of the military construction project here can cause confusion.

Just what is Aviano 2000? A series of projects scheduled for completion in 2000? No.

Does the number coincide with the number of projects scheduled? No.

Does it signify how many years it’s going to take to finish? Seemingly closer, but still no.

“It was just meant to signify a new millennium, a futuristic time,” said Lt. Col. Ken Polasek, program manager for the $550 million project — one of the world’s largest ongoing military construction efforts. “It was never envisioned to be completed by 2000.”

If the completion date did bear a significance in the name, the program would be called Aviano 2010. That’s the latest end date on a project that has seen a number of success stories — and a number of problems and setbacks.

On the positive side, the sweeping program will leave the base with almost entirely new, state-of-the-art facilities. But many targeted completion dates — including for the consolidated school — have run a year or more behind schedule.

The latest series of setbacks includes a decision by the Spanish government to hold up eight projects that are at least partially funded by NATO. Those projects include a new passenger terminal, a flight simulator and a new base library. Under NATO rules, a member country can hold up such funding indefinitely if it wants time for study.

Two projects that will benefit the Army — especially paratroops from nearby Vicenza — are currently on hold because the winning construction bids are being protested. The Government Accountability Office will review them. Polasek said he still hopes that work can start soon on the $10.7 million staging area for paratroops and a rigging facility.

Regardless, about two dozen projects are scheduled for completion this calendar year. They include:

¶ A facility near the base exchange/commissary complex that will house the post office and a mass briefing room that will double as the base movie theater. Together, the facilities cost about $4.4 million and cover 24,000 square feet. The 350-seat theater will replace an older facility a few blocks away on the flight line. The post office will replace the smaller portable building nearby. That facility will then handle packages.

¶ A $3.9 million Child Development Center behind the exchange/commissary complex. The 17,000-square-foot facility will be able to handle about 150 children — in theory erasing the existing waiting list — and allow an addition to the Area 2 gymnasium when the existing CDC closes.

¶ A $4.3 million kindergarten facility near the consolidated school that will allow all-day classes to begin. The 16,000-square-foot facility has nine classrooms, and all that’s left for the contractor to do is finish the landscaping and the playground area outside. But it won’t open until the new school year starts.

¶ A section of the road that circles the runway has been closed for three construction projects. Ground has been broken on one of them: a large parking lot for transient aircraft. The $7 million project will hold as many as 12 C-130 planes or five C-17s, and is set to be finished in the fall. The new staging facility for the Army will be nearby.

Other projects set to debut this year include the $2.7 million, 21-lane indoor firing range; an operations headquarters for the 510th Fighter Squadron; a new control tower; and the last two of the six dorms on the flight line.

Polasek said the number of projects will start slowing down, but construction won’t stop on base, even after the program closes its offices.

“Because once you stop [building and renovating], you’re done,” he said. “That usually means the mission’s over and there’s nobody here.”

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