As Madison County and the two cities move toward closing the pilot plant at the Blue Grass Army Depot, there is a heightened concern about what to do at the end of the day with all the workers, infrastructure and future of the site after demilitarization is no longer in 2023.
“I just wanted to point out the significant impact economically that the transition from the chemical weapons operation will have on the community, both from BGAD standpoint of employees and the taxpayers, and so on, that are going to be affected by our community once those weapons are gone,” Craig Williams, co-chair of the Kentucky Chemical Demilitarization Citizens' Advisory Commission and Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board (CDCAB), said.
In working on that, Bechtel Parsons Enterprises and Bechtel Nation have teamed up with the economic impact working group to provide professional assistance in developing a post demilitarization vision and/or plan focused on economic stability and avoidance of any significant negative impact at the end of demilitarization operations.
This service, according to information at a recent CDCAB meeting, is provided to the county by Bechtel as “in-kind.”
“This is not only a wonderful and welcome development, but something that they have provided now as something we could never provide internally without spending huge amounts of money for consultants and so on,” Williams said. "They have stepped up and provided that service.”
In addition, the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) inside the nation’s defense department provides training and assistance to communities that have large defense projects in their area that will be scaled back or decommissioned entirely so that the community doesn’t suffer negative economic consequences.
Williams said he explored this several years ago, but regulations didn't accept applications for anything until the area is three years away from the end of that defense project. The county will be applicable to this service next year.
“We are creeping up now to being three years away from the year of this, according to the official schedule,” he said.
Williams is working with the Blue Grass Area and Development District, which was involved in the earlier discussion in Washington, D.C., with the OEA to review and update the original draft application written in 2013 and should have a draft for the new application by the CDCAB December meeting.
“We are broadening and escalating our engagement at multiple levels,” he said. “We want to identify certain industrial opportunities, and that doesn’t mean just taking these people from what they are doing now and sticking them some place in the existing industrial base or business community. We are also interested in how do we develop a high-quality business plan to present to industries and corporations outside of the regional area to entice them to come here.”
The Economic Development Working Group has completed the first of three phases of a study in which the Bechtel Corporation will use to complete the basis for preparing for a long-term plan for economic stability in Madison and surrounding counties.
Currently, the EDWG is gathering and providing county information to the corporation regarding current industries, demographics, educational institutions, workforce information and attributes of the area to help in the design of the post demilitarization plan.
Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor thanked Williams for his work and stated that future economic development post demilitarization needs to be a top priority within the community.
“We need to make sure that we start to put a (public relations) campaign together, to the citizens of this county, to the citizens of this region, the seriousness of this impact this is going to leave on the taxpayers of our local government.
Taylor mentioned the CSEPP program, and the entire depot process has created a standard that the government has gotten used to as property taxes from the depot are often used to supply new first responder equipment or other community needs.
“Those things are going to go away, and those monies are going to go away, which is going to mean that our local leaders are going to have to make again tough choices to offset that federal tax base with local tax base.”
Last year, the depot’s operations generated $1,255,045 from the county’s 1% occupational tax. The year before, the county collected $1,133,634.
Currently, the staffing at Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass is around 1,238 employees with a local payroll of $978 million. By 2027, it is forecasted that there will be no employees for BPBG.
He brought up the recent approved and unpopular property tax increase to help build a new jail, and because of that, along with the set-in-stone future of the closure of the pilot plant facilities, now is the best time to educate citizens.
“I have heard many people with Bechtel Parsons, with the army and federal government, that they do not want this to be left with a negative impact on our community,” he said. “That they want this program, this operation, to leave a legacy.”
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.