The Department of Defense recently approved a new weapons destruction schedule that allows for a six-year operations period, opposed to the original time lapse of about 22 months.

The extension was proposed late last year, but the official approval was made April 3 and announced Monday at a meeting of the Chemical Destruction Community Advisory Board (CDCAB) meeting conducted at Eastern Kentucky University.

“In every projection that’s been done, it’s always been an 18- to 24-month operational period,” said Craig Williams, CDCAB member and executive director of the Berea-based Chemical Weapons Working Group.

The new schedule, called the “Acquisition Program Baseline,” affects future funding requests to Congress by providing a more accurate cost estimate, according to information distributed at Monday’s meeting.

The new schedule is geared to result in an immediate savings to the Army, but will add about $3.3 billion to the overall cost of the chemical weapons destruction plants in Richmond and in Pueblo, Colo. This brings the total for the two projects up to $8 billion.

There could be a possibility of overcoming the extension for the pilot plant and proceeding as previously planned, said Jim Fritsche, site project manager for the Blue Grass Chemical Agent Destruction Pilot Plant.

“Once we demonstrate what we can do, the ball’s in our court,” he said. “First, we need to show that we have the potential.”

The chemical weapons destruction operation schedule will now go from 24 hours a day to 16 hours a day, four days a week, based on the recent approval.

In other business:

More than $89 million in military construction funds will be needed to help keep the Blue Grass project moving forward for the remainder of fiscal year 2007, according to Fritsche’s presentation

$77 million has been assigned to Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass for design and construction of the weapons destruction pilot plant, and $12.2 million was assigned to chemical destruction support projects at the depot.

Gary Cough, construction manager for Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass, gave an update about project staffing and pilot plant construction progression.

The Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass team: employs 77 in Richmond (with 14 of those positions being Madison County hires); has 18-22 subcontractor construction workers on the job site each day; and has awarded $20,990,000 in construction acquisitions that include $20,440,000 going to local businesses (Madison and surrounding counties), $58,000 to Kentucky businesses outside the local area and $492,000 to businesses located outside of Kentucky.

The land preparation, perimeter fencing and roadway concrete are complete, and the 1.8-mile access road is about 97 percent complete.

Future additions include an access control building, active security vehicle barriers, personnel support and maintenance buildings, as well as all underground utilities.

Carl Richards, director of the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, gave an update about EMA and CSEPP (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program) efforts.

Additional emergency warning sirens will be added throughout the county. There will be 12 sirens added during the project‚s first phase and 12 more will come in the second phase, Richards said.

The Tone Alert Radio System located in many Madison County homes will be upgraded next year and county maps showing the locations of sirens will be updated to match the county‚s rapid growth.

Recent accomplishments for the EMA/CSEPP include: Public outreach surveys sent to Madison County residents indicate that the percentage of those who know what emergency response zone they live in has increased from 4 to 20 percent; 77 new CSEPP radios were purchased for $3,800 each; and 19 Berea police officers received extensive training in dealing with chemical accidents.

The next meeting of the CDCAB will be Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in the Perkins Building on EKU’s campus.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 234.

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