Spokane Journal of Business

Contractor to privatize housing at Fairchild, work at other bases

GMH Military Housing talks with officials here about local subcontractors

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The U.S. Air Force says it has selected Newton Square, Penn.-based GMH Military Housing to privatize housing at Fairchild Air Force Base and two other bases in the West, although a contract still must be negotiated.

Under the privatization plan, the Air Force will contract with GMH Military Housing to rehabilitate some houses at Fairchild while also building new ones, but overall, the project is expected to shrink the number of houses on base significantly. GMH also will buy from the federal government a total of 85 acres of land and about 250 vacant military housing units located in Geiger Heights and Cheney.

In addition to the work at Fairchild, GMH will build homes at Travis Air Force Base, in Fairfield, Calif., and Tinker Air Force Base, near Oklahoma City, Okla. The military typically bundles work at bases together in such privatization programs.

The Air Force selected GMH as the highest-ranked offeror, which means its now working exclusively with the company on developing its housing plan for the three bases in greater detail, says Col. Van Fuller, the mission support group commander of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing at Fairchild. The Air Force expects to close its transaction with GMH at the end of March, Fuller says. The contract will be worth an estimated roughly $450 million for the work at all three bases, with Fairchild accounting for about $100 million of that amount, he says.

Construction could start at Fairchild in mid to late summer, Fuller says. The project is projected to take about eight years to complete, although Fuller expects it will wrap up before then.

A representative from GMH has visited Fairchild and talked with officials there about the capabilities of the Spokane-area subcontracting industry, and Fuller says hes optimistic the company will hire some local companies to do subcontract work on the project. He expects GMH will start searching for subcontractors after the contract is signed in March.

Although GMH will have the option of developing the off-base land it will buy on the West Plains, the company likely will put that property up for sale shortly after it enters into the contract with Fairchild, Fuller says. The land is located at the southeast corner of Grove Road and Hallett Road, in Geiger Heights, about two miles south of the Interstate 90-Geiger Boulevard interchange, and just south of Eastern Washington University, in Cheney.

Currently about 1,000 living units, primarily single-family homes, are located on base, not including dormitories. About 570 of those units will be torn down or removed, the remaining units will be renovated, and enough new homes will be constructed so that a total of 641 homes will be located on base when the project is completed, Fuller says. GMH will own and maintain those homes, and the Air Force will lease them from the company and retain ownership of the land. GMH will manage on-base housing for 50 years under the contract.

The homes on base now range in size from an average of 1,000 square feet to 1,900 square feet of floor space and in age from about seven years to more than 50 years. The new and remodeled homes are expected to range in size from roughly 1,300 square feet to 3,600 square feet of floor space, Air Force documents say.

To give an idea of the scope of the project, it would have cost the military nearly $230 million to construct the homes it believes are needed at Fairchild to replace aging inventory there, base officials have said. As a result of the dramatic drop that will occur in the number of homes available on base after the project is completed, roughly 500 military households will be looking for housing off base in the greater Spokane area during the next 10 years, and will have nearly $5 million a year just through military housing allowances to spend on that housing.

In 2004, Air Force officials announced the possibility of privatizing military housing here as one option to provide housing despite declining military housing funds and an increasingly urgent need to update on-base housing.

GMHs Web site says its the private developer on 12 privatization projects for the Army, Navy, and Air Force, including a project at Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, Calif., that it was awarded earlier this month.

Contact Emily Proffitt at (509) 344-1265 or via e-mail at emilyp@spokanejournal.com.

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