VICENZA, Italy — Construction is still months away, but U.S. plans to build facilities at the Dal Molin airfield in Italy recently reached a pair of milestones.

A site survey of potential unexploded ordnance is under way, according to Maj. Ryan Dillon, public affairs officer for the Southern European Task Force (Airborne). Additionally, the deadline for contractors to bid on the project passed last week.

Dillon declined to say how many companies turned in bids for the construction project or when a winner would be selected. Base officials say it’s likely a contractor will be chosen months before the ordnance survey is completed.

The survey, conducted by an Italian company, could take nine months, Dillon said. Magnetic readings will be taken after a series of holes are drilled into the ground where the facilities will be built.

“Anywhere you have a history of bombing, this type of work has to be done,” Dillon said.

A preliminary survey last year indicated there likely are at least fragments in the soil from bombs dating to World War II.

If any bombs are found, Italian military specialists would manage the removal of the materiel.

Assuming a contractor is already chosen, construction could start right after the survey is completed next year, Dillon said. That means construction would start in late summer.

A small protest took place last weekend in front of the gates of Caserma Ederle. The project has been highly controversial in Vicenza and among leftists across the country. Opponents worry that additional facilities and troops will affect water services and traffic patterns in Vicenza. Others cite an opposition to a larger American military presence in the city or U.S. policies in general.

In addition, some reports have said the U.S. plans to use or store military aircraft, tanks and nuclear materiel at Dal Molin. Others have said the base would be the largest military facility outside the United States and would serve as the main staging point for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U.S. military denies all those reports, saying the airfield is needed for offices and barracks for soldiers to consolidate the entire 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in one location. Currently, four of the six battalions are based in Bamberg and Schweinfurt in Germany.

The military says the airfield is not suited for military cargo airplanes or fighter jets and the site was chosen because it was the property owned by the Italian military closest to its current facilities at Caserma Ederle.

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for almost 38 years.

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