KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — After more than two years of delays, skyrocketing costs and myriad problems, the opening date of the military’s shopping Mecca — the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center — appears to be in sight.

"The KMCC project should be finished around February 2009," said Markus Ramp, a spokesman for the German contracting company Landesbetrieb Liegenschafts-und Baubetreuung. LBB declined to give a specific opening date in February.

The 844,000-square-foot center will include a 350-room hotel, stadium seating movie theaters, a food court and exchange.

The total price tag for the facility at Ramstein Air Base remains unclear since the design costs, changes in the dollar compared to the euro, furniture and equipment costs and other expenses aren’t included in the Air Force’s figures, a Government Accountability Office report stated. The GAO said it believes the total cost will exceed $200 million.

The KMCC budget was $120 million, according to officials with the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Air Force officials said they were not available to talk about the KMCC until sometime in November.

The Air Force is at odds with the German government regarding $38 million in funding the Germans gave the project. The Air Force believes the money is a grant and the German government contends it’s a loan.

GAO officials and Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat and chairman of the oversight committee, have been critical of the project for what they called shoddy planning and oversight of the work and contracts. The facility’s leaky living roof had to be ripped out and replaced, kitchen exhaust ducts were sealed with flammable insulation and cracks were found in the concrete foundation, among other problems.

The cracks in the foundation are still being repaired, Ramp said.

Waxman noted at hearings on the project in late June that little progress was made on the KMCC during the previous year.

"There have been major problems with the K-town project," Waxman said in a statement last week. "The project continues to fall behind schedule and the costs continue to increase. We need to ensure that the men and women serving our country overseas get the top-quality facilities they deserve, which is why we are continuing to monitor this project and press for reforms."

Committee members have not planned any more hearings on the KMCC, and they have not been told what the center’s opening date and final costs are, said Karen Lightfoot, the committee’s communications director and senior policy adviser.

Air Force and German government officials have launched investigations into the project for fraud as a result of the delays and other woes.

Steffen Kuestner, Germany’s leading prosecutor investigating the KMCC, said after checking 200 of the 400 change orders, the fraud allegations have not been substantiated.

But some sloppiness, such as unsigned paperwork, has been found, he said.

"We probably will close our investigation around the end of the year," Kuestner said. "One reason for the formal deficiencies surround the KMCC project might be an enormous time pressure the responsible workers had to deal with."

Stars and Stripes reporter Marcus Klöckner contributed to this story.

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