Exceptions to the plan to close Fort Douglas are surfacing as officials at the post scramble to find out just what their destiny is.
Maj. William Auer, public affairs officer for the 96th Army Reserve Command at the fort, said post officials have received a two-page directive from the Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closure Commission specifying that some military components will stay at the post while others are to leave if the base is closed, as recommended, in 1990.Legislation by Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, that calls for the federal government to give the fort to the University of Utah would also have to include specific language to circumvent established federal policy. Otherwise, or the U. would be third or fourth on the list of to acquire the fort, Auer said.
And Rep. Wayne Owens, R-Utah, believes disposition of the fort could be handled yet another way. (See accompanying story.)
The commission recently delivered a report to Defense Secretary Frank C. Carlucci that lists 86 bases it recommends closing to trim the Defense Department's budget. Fort Douglas is on that list.
Congress can't pick and choose from the list, and acceptance of the commission's closure package is expected in March.
The directive sent to the post indicates the 96th ARCOM will stay, as will reserve centers for the Marines, Navy and Coast Guard. The amount of the post they can occupy will be severely restricted, possibly to three buildings that recently underwent a $4.2 million renovation, " . . . which means we will probably begin a program of looking and planning for a consolidation," Auer said.
Some military elements now at Fort Douglas that operate under the 6th Army command would be moved to the post's parent facility at Fort Carson, Colo., along with other 6th Army components stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco, which is also targeted for closure.
Still other elements will stay in the Salt Lake area, but are to move off post to commercial space in the valley, Auer said.
"Taking the commission's guidance, I would say the 15 sub-organizations of the 96th ARCOM, plus the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard would remain," Auer said. "As for the other activities - a lot of that is still up in the air."
There has been no official discussion of moving any of Fort Douglas' components to Camp Williams, which is a National Guard facility. Moving some components from the fort to commercial space will result in a net increase in operating costs, Auer said.
The question of who would get Fort Douglas if it is closed has been tossed about since the closure commission's list was first released the week after Christmas. Hansen's bill would give the fort to the University of Utah. There has also been talk of making the space available for agencies that oversee drug rehabilitation programs or assistance for the homeless.
"The McKinney Act on housing for the homeless may take priority," Auer said.
The disposition of 44 buildings on 45 acres of the post is restricted because of their designation as historic landmarks, Auer said. "It is possible other people could acquire things (on the fort) that have been designated as historical landmarks, even though there would be restrictions on how they could use them."
Take a number
Unless Congress specifies otherwise, Fort Douglas would not necessarily go to the University of Utah. By law, the property must first be offered to the following:
- Other federal agencies that need space
- Federal agencies that administer public programs, such as social services or recreation
- State and local governments
- University of Utah