The Richmond Register

Local News

February 26, 2013

Weapons destruction plant could face more funding shortfalls

RICHMOND — Of all the years for Congress to not pass a military construction budget, fiscal year 2013 was not a good one, said Craig Williams, who co-chairs the Chemical Demilitarization Citizens Advisory Board.

At Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting, Williams presented an update on the Blue Grass Chemical Agent-Destruction Pilot Plant, which is designed to destroy 523 tons of nerve and blister agents in rockets and projectiles stored at the Blue Grass Army Depot.

Construction has been underway on the plant since 2009, but the project could face another funding shortfall for the second half of fiscal year 2013, he said.

"I’ve been saying for a long time, despite the fact we have the technology picked and the construction well under way, we have to remain vigilant in the context of congressional funding,” Williams said.

Because Congress did not pass a military construction budget, Williams said, funding is only available at the same levels as the previous year.

Total spending in 2012 was about $223,000, but the amount requested for 2013 was roughly $411,000 because this year was projected to be the “heaviest year in terms of construction activity and progress,” said Jeff Brubaker, the government’s site project manager.

"If we can get close to or equal to the amount requested, it gives us a greater chance of staying on track for this year,” Brubaker said. The construction of the 330,000 square-foot facility will proceed into 2015, he added.

For the first six months of FY 2013, the project faced a $43.3 million shortfall in military construction funds. However, “a coalition of folks” weighed in on a request to the Pentagon to reprogram its balance to fund the project, Williams said. This prevented a “significant layoff” of workers at the site.

The secured funds are sufficient for the first six months of the fiscal year, but that ends March 28.

"Now we’re back in a similar situation, but it’s not as dire,” he said. The projected shortfall for the next six months is approximately $15-20 million.

Williams is hoping to use the same “coalition of folks” to secure more funding.

"If the funding can be sustained, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape,” he said. “We’re very comfortable with the technology, we’re very comfortable with the leadership, we’d like to be a little more comfortable with the money.”

He also reported a rocket separation project which is scheduled to begin in early 2014.

The Army’s Blue Grass Chemical Activity (BGCA) will separate 44 M-55 rockets to validate rocket propellant stability and best practices for continued storage and future demilitarization operations.

Samples already have been taken at other weapons storage sites, but the conditions under which rockets are stored at the Depot are different, Williams said.

The rockets will be removed from a storage igloo and moved to a processing igloo where they will be unscrewed. The warhead will be put back in storage while the propellant will be sent to the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey for testing.

Of those 44 rockets, 19 will stay in storage at BGCA to obtain the latest information on the propellants prior to beginning operations at the new plant, Williams said.

A recommendation was made to Assembled Chemical Weapons Alternatives (ACWA), the agency responsible for the safe destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles in both Colorado and Kentucky, to use explosive-detonation technology (EDT) to destroy selected mustard munitions.

In the very center of the mustard projectile, the “burster” is difficult to extract, Williams said. EDT is a  proposed alternative to removing the burster, draining the mustard agent and running it through the main facility.

Several years ago, when media began reporting on the Army’s plans to “blow up” chemical weapons, “people thought it (would be occurring) out in a field some place, but EDT is what we’re talking about,” he said.

So far, the weapons destruction project has spent $104.6 million at Kentucky companies, with $63.8 million of that spent in Madison and surrounding counties, Williams reported.

Almost $400 million has been spent in local payroll with another $412 million in payroll projected for the remainder of the project.

More than 1,000 are employed to work on the project, while 933 of those employees work in Richmond.

Williams and his partners are in the first phase of a economic impact study to plan for life after the plant “completes its mission.”

"Madison County is going to be sitting here sometime in the future with a $1.4 billion facility and 1,000 highly-trained workers,” he said. “We don’t want to wait until the last minute to try to figure out what we do with that.”

The report on phase one is due in June. Phases two and three will address the repurposing of the plant.

Text Only
Local News
  • 8-2 Quilt Extravaganza 1.jpg Quilting stitches history, friendships together

    Within the first two hours of the 10th annual Quilt Extravaganza at Berea Community School, more than 200 people had already signed the guestbook.

    Colorful displays of quilt collections lined the school’s gymnasium.

    August 1, 2014 6 Photos

  • 8-2 EKU gift.jpg Dizney gift lets EKU begin $15M stadium addition

    Eastern Kentucky University athletics has received its largest-ever single gift.

    President Michael Benson announced Friday that Donald R. and Irene Dizney, of Ocala, Fla., have committed a lead cash gift toward a $15 million multi-purpose facility to replace the grandstands on the east side of Roy Kidd Stadium.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 8-1 St. Mark door.jpg Arabic letter N painted on church door

    Throughout its history the Roman Catholic Church has been associated with Latin language and lettering, so passersby on West Main Street were surprised Thursday to see a strange symbol emblazoned on the church’s door.
    Some were even more surprised to learn it was an Arabic character.

    August 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fire damages Southern Hills building

    A building in the Southern Hills shopping center at the corner of Commercial Drive and Gibson Bay Drive was damaged by a Thursday afternoon fire.
    Contractors had been working to update the vacant building but were probably not the cause of the fire that began in the bathroom, Richmond Fire Chief Buzzy Campbell said after the fire was extinguished.

    August 1, 2014

  • 8-1 demo derby 1.jpg Demolition derby at the county fair

    The emcee, firefighters and paramedics race to help the driver of an over-turned car in Wednesday night’s Madison County Fair demolition derby. The driver was unhurt and the vehicle was quickly righted.

    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • 8-1 fair pageants 3.jpg Royalty crowned at Madison County Fair


    August 1, 2014 3 Photos

  • 8-1 Bees 2.jpg Bee-ing in the know

    Bee lovers were buzzing around Eastern Kentucky University this week for the Eastern Apicultural Society’s 2014 conference.
    Hobbyists, scientists and apiarists traveled from as far as Canada, France and New Zealand, as well as many states, to spend the week exploring numerous aspects of bees.

    July 31, 2014 8 Photos

  • 8-1 Tanya R. Horn.jpg Store employee charged with taking $10,000

    Tanya R. Horn, 33, of Darlene Court, pilfered $10,196 in cash from Posh Tots on Meridian Way over the course of two years, according to a Richmond Police report.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • 7-30 Candids 1.jpg Madison County Fair paid admissions total 10,000 by Tuesday

    Approximately 10,000 people had purchased tickets to the Madison County Fair by Tuesday evening, Billy Tudor, fair board president said Wednesday morning.
    The count does not include Sunday’s Family Fun Day, which offered free admission, Tudor said.

    July 31, 2014 10 Photos

  • 7-31 Pageant Toddler Girl Winners.jpg Babies, toddlers crowned at Madison County Fair


    July 31, 2014 4 Photos