Verona base’s future in doubt as school closes, NATO leaves

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 4, 2004

The writing might be on the wall. But it’s not yet set in stone.

The future of the tiny compound on the outskirts of Verona, Italy, is still in doubt.

“No final decision has been made,” said Bill Murphy, operations officer for the 22nd Area Support Group in Verona.

Plans have been drawn up that would effectively shut all operations on the 7.5-acre complex by the end of September. But that’s only a possibility at this point, Murphy said.

There are a pair of significant closings in the next two weeks that have an obvious impact on the base’s future.

The last day of classes at Verona American School, which dominates the compound, is Friday. It’ll take a few weeks for teachers and administrators to pack up materials, but the facility closes for good by the end of the month.

“The school is closing,” Murphy said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

That’s also true of the current NATO command, Joint Forces South, where most Americans living in Verona are assigned. That command will close this summer. Though the NATO offices are located elsewhere in Verona, a ceremony will be held June 15 on the American compound to pay tribute to those who have served in the city of Romeo and Juliet over past 48 years.

There will still be a smaller NATO operation in Verona after the summer, but only a handful of Americans will stay. Vicenza, a half hour’s drive down the A4 autrostrada, is the nearest DODDS facility. High school students from Verona and Ghedi Air Base already attend Vicenza.

There were once thousands of Americans in Verona at several compounds.

Since the Southern European Task Force (Airborne) moved from Verona to Vicenza in the 1960s, there’s only been a few hundred. Even that number has gotten smaller in recent years.

With the NATO command and school closing, there would be even fewer customers at the AAFES shoppette, post office, fitness center and library.

The current $24,800-a-year lease on the facility expires in May.

Officials with the Installation Management Agency-Europe are scheduled to take up the issue soon.

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