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Who will pay bill for Fort Monroe?
By David Macaulay - 247-7838
March 21, 2010
HAMPTON ó When the U.S. Army vacates Fort Monroe in September 2011, the historic base's custodians will be left with a small city they must build and manage.
But questions about funding for new infrastructure and daily management of the new "village" owned by the commonwealth are unresolved. Under a bill passed March 8 in the General Assembly and awaiting the approval of Gov. Bob McDonnell, Fort Monroe, an enclave of the state within the city of Hampton, will be run by a new, 11-member Fort Monroe Authority.
The city of Hampton would pay for services such as policing, road maintenance and education and be reimbursed by the new fort authority, said Bill Armbruster, executive director of the current Fort Monroe Federal Area Development Authority, known as FMFADA.
New infrastructure remains another area to be worked out.
At a Hampton Roads Caucus Meeting on March 4, Mark Brunner, of U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner's office, said Fort Monroe requires $100 million to $250 million in infrastructure, according to a memo to the City Council from Hampton City Manager Mary Bunting.
Brunner said the Army's view is it is not required to carry out infrastructure improvements when it hands over the keys.
"He went on to say that this would be the largest earmark he had ever seen, earmarks typically being in the $1 million to $5 million range," Bunting said.
Kevin Hall, a spokesman for Warner, said the figures come from the Army. While some money has been set aside under the BRAC process for the cleanup, "federal budgets are as tight as state and local budgets," he said.
Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward said the city has been in talks about Fort Monroe services post-September 2011. She is adamant that the city should not incur additional expenditures.
"It's a daunting prospect to have the commonwealth taking over this project without infrastructure and improvements," Ward said. "They are required to hand it over at a certain level of certain condition, and there's some negotiating about what this is."
She said no part of Fort Monroe would revert to the city.
"This is going to fall on the shoulders of the commonwealth of Virginia," the mayor said. "The services that they are expecting us to provide are different than asking us to lay sewer lines."
Ward said the city will insist that services to Fort Monroe are "revenue neutral."
Armbruster outlined Fort Monroe's expected future legal status in a recent interview.
"This new legislation will give us the tools to operate and manage what is a small city. We are being created as a political subdivision of the commonwealth of Virginia."
Armbruster said Fort Monroe will be "an enclave of the commonwealth, and that's in the legislation."
"We will have the authority to do anything a municipality does except levying taxes."
The post's current 18-member development authority would be restructured into a more corporate board and become the Fort Monroe Authority.
"The city of Hampton will provide traditional governmental services: fire, police, security and education. That is their responsibility. We will reimburse them for those services through a memorandum of agreement. ... We are working very closely with the city of Hampton to make sure that they are not stuck with the bill of providing services and not getting reimbursed for those services," Armbruster said.
The model assumes that the Fort Monroe Authority will raise enough money to pay for the services.
"We're not going to sell any property. It's all going to be done through leasing," Armbruster said. "Are we going to be able to make this place pay for itself right up front? No."
Fort Monroe ultimately will be self-sustaining through new development, leasing and tourism, he said.
There are fewer than 300 housing units on the base right now. FMFADA expects to see about 1,100 homes eventually at Fort Monroe.
Armbruster said he doesn't expect schools to be built on Fort Monroe.
"The city is providing schools for children that live out here. That will continue."
The board is also pursuing a National Park Service presence at the post, but will also tap into the private-sector partnerships.
"We can't do it alone. ... We want the private sector to help us, and there's really significant interest on the part of the private sector to be a partner with us," Armbruster said.
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Hampton would pay for policing, road maintenance and education but would be reimbursed. City officials say the fort should be "revenue neutral."
Pending legislation makes the fort an enclave of the commonwealth. But hundreds of millions in infrastructure improvements and cleanup would strain state budgets.
The Federal Government
Officials hope to have a National Park Service presence at the post. The Army is balking at paying for improvements after it leaves in 2011.
Who's on board?
The new, 11-member authority would include:
Source: Virginia General Assembly