While Congress this week gave final approval to shut down Fort Douglas, a new use for the base won't be found for months, and the final execution of the historic base's closure won't be achieved for years, officials say.
Congress finalized a recommendation to close the base - with 85 other obsolete stations and 54 others to be realigned - with a 381-43 vote in the House. All three Utah congressmen voted for closure.The vote paves the way for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney to begin closing the bases in January. All base closures and realignments are to be completed by 1995, at an estimated annual savings of $693 million.
Meanwhile, Salt Lake, Fort Douglas and Washington officials have formed the Fort Douglas Task Force and continue with public hearings to determine a new use for the base that adjoins the University of Utah and several neighborhoods.
Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis, Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, convened the task force in January soon after the Commission on Base Realignment and Closure released its proposal to close Fort Douglas.
The task force was formed to develop a "consensus position" in the community, DePaulis said Friday, on what to do with the surplus Fort Douglas land.
"I still think it's logical that whatever is surplus should go to the university and that the university should have a plan" for using the acreage, DePaulis said.
U. President Chase Peterson said at a public hearing April 7 that the U. would use surplus property, including several historic buildings on the base, to house students and faculty as part of an honors program.
While the fort's shutdown is characterized as a full closure, the Army is proposing to retain 65 of the 119 acres at the fort to house 100 members of the 96th Army Reserve Command, some buildings and equipment.
DePaulis said, however, the acreage retained under the fort's proposal could be reduced. "I don't think anything is set in concrete now," he said.
On May 1, the Secretary of the Army will submit a schedule to the Defense Department for closing Fort Douglas.
"We're looking to get our marching orders by October (1989)," said Maj. Bill Auer, base spokesman. It is still unclear exactly when the base would be closed within the five-year period.
Defense Department officials say the base closure must achieve a net savings for the government and that the fort's possible sale would not be like past "dollar giveaways." Officials did say surplus property could be discounted if it were to be used by other entities for certain purposes - such as education - for which the U. would use it.
Peterson said the U. doesn't want the land if it has to pay for it.
Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, has introduced legislation that would give the university Fort Douglas.
Owens is proposing an administrative transfer of the land. Under federal law, any Fort Douglas surplus land must first be offered to the Defense Department and other federal agencies before it can be offered to state governments.
Timetable for closing Fort Douglas:
Dec. 29, 1988 - Commission on Base Realignment and Closure targets Fort Douglas and 85 other bases for closure.
April 18, 1989 - Congress approves recommendations from closure commission.
May 1, 1989 - Army submits base closure schedule to the Defense Department.
October 1989 - Fort Douglas learns when it must begin closing its surplus land.
January 1990 - Defense Secretary Dick Cheney can begin closing targeted bases.
January 1995 - Defense Department must complete closure of Fort Douglas and 85 other bases.