“We have a 30-year history, as a community and as the State, of making whatever investments have been necessary to meet the needs of the Army and Fort Drum”
Watertown, NY (PRWEB) February 04, 2015
During his State of the State address on January 21st, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo took a moment to thank the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division for their service (several of whom were in the audience at his invitation) and cited the importance of Fort Drum. As reported in the a series of articles in the Watertown Daily Times on January 22, 23, and 24 (http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20150122/NEWS03/150129569; http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20150123/NEWS03/150129374; and http://www.watertowndailytimes.com/article/20150124/NEWS03/150129128) he then once again demonstrated the State’s commitment to protecting the future of Fort Drum by pledging $26.5 million in state funding toward two key projects. The first is $1.5 million for the purchase of development rights to preserve 1,300 acres of buffer land around the Army installation. In addition, a $25 million appropriation will fund improvements to State Route 26, removing a transportation bottleneck and enhancing the installation's security.
Located in Northern New York State, Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain Division, is fortunate to have an un-encroached buffer of farm and forest land surrounding its training areas. Much of that is due to the local planning and zoning undertaken over the past 30 years to manage growth and prevent land use conflicts with post activities. The $1.5 million in state funding will support the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program, which to-date has preserved nearly 5,000 acres of buffer land around the post.
Currently, State Route 26 cuts between the post and its airfield, forcing Fort Drum personnel to leave the secure area and pass through a second security gate across the road to re-enter a secure area. The $25 million project will connect the two parts of the post via an overpass or underpass, eliminating a checkpoint and improving internal traffic flow.
“We have a 30-year history, as a community and as the State, of making whatever investments have been necessary to meet the needs of the Army and Fort Drum,” said Carl A. McLaughlin, Executive Director for the Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization. “That includes investments in infrastructure, housing, transportation, health care, and education. We’ve built this post and this community together. We’re proven partners.”
Mr. McLaughlin noted that just since 2005, New York State, the surrounding communities, and developers have invested over $1 billion to support Fort Drum Growth. To close a housing gap, the community provided over $10 million in financing and tax incentives, and the state provided $50 million in financial assistance, attracting $1.06 billion in total investment to construct over 3,800 units of new multi-family rental housing. $107.6 million in community transportation infrastructure included $57 million in state funding to create Interstate 781, which provides direct access from I-81 to Fort Drum’s main gate. There have also been over $100 million in community healthcare facility upgrades to accommodate the needs of the military population. That model is a cost-savings to the Army so that Fort Drum does not have to maintain its own on-post hospital.
Thanks to the ReEnergy biomass facility, Fort Drum is the Army's only installation that consumes 100 percent of its electricity from a renewable source that is generated on post—providing energy security and advancing the Army’s sustainability goals by totally eliminating greenhouse gas emissions associated with creating electricity. This, also, was made possible by state and local support. To make the $60 million project viable, the community provided $1.5 million in tax incentives and $30 million in state-approved bond financing. The project also received renewable energy tax credits from New York State.
The state and community partnership with the Army and Fort Drum dates back to 1985, with the creation of the Development Authority of the North Country as a regional entity to coordinate and manage essential services outside the base in support of the installation mission. “As the Department of Defense has transformed our nation’s Army, we have transformed the North Country to be compatible with the needs and mission of our Army and our Division,” said James W. Wright, a former New York State Senator and currently DANC’s executive director. “We have met every metric and every objective. We have made the commitment to assume the risk and make the necessary investments.”