Hill Air Force Base must feel like it's part of a new plot development for "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas."

Just when it seemed that three years of battling petty politics in Washington over base closures was over, a legal issue has surfaced to put a roadblock in Hill's path to prosperity.Last week it was announced that Hill and Boeing won a $1.1 billion contract for work now done at McClellan Air Force Base in California, a base ordered closed by Congress in 1995 but, because it represents a vote-rich state, the Clinton Administration had delayed shutting it down.

That seemed to be a moot point after the bid announcement, which was expected to bring between 750 and 1,000 new jobs to Hill. However, the U.S. General Accounting Office has decided to support a protest by a contractor that contended the Air Force improperly limited competition by the way it set up bids for the contract.

PEMCO, which performed work on KC-135 aircraft at McClellan, contended the Air Force put almost all the work from McClellan into one large contract, preventing it from bidding for just the KC-135 work. The GAO agreed that the bidding was flawed.

That action does not necessarily cancel the contract for Hill, but it may cause some problems.

But after all of the stonewalling and bureaucratic shenanigans the past three years, what must take place now is quick resolution.

The Air Force is not obligated legally to support the GAO's action. The Utah delegation hopes that it will let the contract awarded to Hill and Boeing stand. PEMCO could seek to get a restraining order to stop the contract, though a judge may be reluctant to grant it because the Air Force has stated that further delay could put the nation's defenses at risk.

Another option would be for the Air Force to cancel the bid competition and just award the work to Hill. The third and worst option is to take new bids, thereby creating considerable delay.

Hill Air Force Base has been treated like a yo-yo for far too long. Not only is it in Hill's best interest, but it's in the nation's best interest to get this matter resolved quickly and fairly.