Even though local reservists don't want to move, the Army has agreed to give up 11 acres at Fort Douglas to make way for an Olympic Village at the University of Utah, a top aide to Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said Friday.
"It's going to happen. It's only a minor question of where," Bill Johnson, the congressman's legislative director and military issues advisor, said from Washington, D.C.Hansen, R-Utah, wants those units of the 96th U.S. Regional Support Command that have to be relocated to go to Camp Williams, the state's military training facility near Bluffdale.
The move would enable the U. to begin work on new dorms that will be used to house some 4,000 athletes and officials during the 2002 Winter Games. Olympic organizers are contributing $28 million towards the project.
But the 96th doesn't want to go to Camp Williams and has gone so far as to issue statements to the press, something that apparently has irritated the congressman.
"Jim Hansen's personal belief is that Camp Williams is a perfectly suitable site and they'd better get used to it or they'll find themselves somewhere they really don't want to be," Johnson said.
That could be Fort Carson, Colo., where Congress once tried to move the regional command, one of just 10 for the Army Reserve nationwide. The command, which serves six states, has an annual payroll of $17 million.
"Now it looks like a choice between Camp Williams and Fort Carson, Colo. They can take their pick," Johnson said. "We'll try to meet their requirements, but they have to be real requirements."
The 96th issued a press release last week that stated, "The U.S. Army Reserve does not agree with suggestions by State of Utah officials to move units to land in vicinity of Camp Williams."
A spokesman for the 96th, Sgt. 1st Class Gary Younger, said Friday he was not aware of any decision being made about the 11 acres, which are on the east side of Fort Douglas.
Hansen's state director, Steve Petersen, said Thursday that the 96th is "working overtime to kill any deal whatsoever. Our message to them is that this is going to happen and they'd better get used to it. There are plenty of other people lining up to take their (place)."
Petersen blamed the effort on "a lot of freelancers up there with a vested interest . . . from their personal perspective it'll disrupt their lives because they'll have to drive a little farther."
Only two units, the 419th transportation company, which supplies fuel, and the 299th quartermaster supply company, which serves as supply clerks, would likely go to Camp Williams, Johnson said.
The equipment maintenance unit could be consolidated with a similar shop at the Army's Defense Depot Ogden, he said. The regional command itself would not have to move from Fort Douglas.
Both Petersen and Johnson said a pair of top Army officials agreed to the move during a meeting with Hansen about two weeks ago. Another meeting scheduled with them in Salt Lake City this week was canceled.
The aides said there was no need to hold that meeting with the U. and the Army's assistant secretaries, Alma Moore and Paul Johnson because the decision to move had already been made.
Now the discussion with the Army is focused on the move itself, with the Army agreeing to cover the costs of new buildings, Johnson said. The state may pick up other costs.
Congress has the final say over whether to relocate the reservists and give the land to the state. Hansen sits on the House National Security Committee, which, along with the Senate Armed Services Committee, will make the decision.
"The state has always said we're willing to make some accommodations if a move can be made. We've always taken that position," Charlie Johnson, Gov. Mike Leavitt's chief of staff, said.
Such accommodations could include coming up with money to cover the Army Reserves relocation costs as well as contributing eight to 10 acres of land at Camp Williams.Comment on this story
Brig. Gen. Phillip O. Peay, the Utah National Guard's deputy adjutant general, said Friday the ownership of Camp Williams is a complicated matter, with some of it belonging to the state and the rest to such federal agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers. The entire base is a state training facility.
"The point is the property is available to the reserves and they don't want to come out there. That's the whole point," he said.
"The National Guard made the land available to the reserves and they don't want to come out there . . . I don't know what their hang-up is," Peay added.