All that’s needed is the $35 million.
That’s also where the Army comes in. It’s the Army’s ordnance, by the way, that was left scattered throughout the McClellan expanse. And it’s the Army’s ordnance that trained explosives experts have been searching for, cataloguing and removing for nearly a decade.
Mike James, a board member of the McClellan Development Authority, was spot-on Wednesday when he suggested an “acceleration” of the cleanup of Anniston’s former post. By James’ estimation, McClellan could be ordnance-free in 18 months to 24 months — which would open all kinds of doors for the MDA to market and develop what could be the most potential-laden property in Alabama.
The bottom line: It’s easier to convince potential buyers when the property they’re interested in isn’t packaged with questions about leftover munitions rusting in the woods.
Oh, and the aforementioned $35 million?
That’s a lot of cash for laymen; but for the U.S. military and its billion-dollar budget, it’s a figurative drop in the bucket. Problem is, the Army’s checkbook is tied up in all sorts of political and military issues. The biggest may be the $500 billion in automatic budget cuts for defense spending that were ordered by last year’s debt-reduction agreement in Washington. The first $50 billion in defense-related budget cuts arrives in January.
The other is politics — which, come budget-writing time, means everything on Capitol Hill. It seemed Army Spokesperson Dave Foster hinted at that when he told The Star that he could only speculate on the chances of an extra $35 million for McClellan cleanup being included in the fiscal 2013 budget.
Nevertheless, let’s be positive. A cleaned McClellan is a profitable, marketable McClellan. It’s a victory for Calhoun County — for today and for its future. If there’s a way to speed it up, let’s get it done.
We encourage James and the MDA to keep this topic active; don’t be swayed by the daunting task of securing another $35 million. Consider all options.
As for politics? Alabama’s often-maligned delegation is fond of securing funding for state projects. What better long-term mission for northeast Alabama is there than moving McClellan’s cleanup closer to fruition?
In this climate of budget cuts and small government, the MDA’s search for an additional $35 million is a steep climb. Money’s scarce. But if the acceleration of McClellan’s future isn’t a worthwhile gamble for Calhoun County, few things are.