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Minnesota National Guard
National Guard construction booming despite industry woes

In an effort to take some of the politics out of the competition, the federal National Guard, an arm of the Pentagon, asks each state and territory to submit its top two projects for consideration

"They try to pick from that list and spread the money around," Vesely said "What's happening is, Congress sometimes gets in the mix and tries to put their favorite little project in there in addition to these, and that is where it gets crazy sometimes" 

Demand for National Guard facilities is especially strong in Minnesota The state, which has roughly 11,600 National Guard members, has been a leader in National Guard recruiting, and "when you grow the force, you have to grow infrastructure and support facilities for that force," Vesely noted

Planned facilities include the proposed 167,000-square-foot Armed Forces Reserve Center, which would offer training space for National Guard and Army Reserve troops, with offices, classrooms, an assembly hall, shower and locker rooms, arms vaults, electrical and data equipment rooms and other amenities

The State Designer Selection Board is scheduled to conduct interviews for that project on Aug 26; a dozen design firms have expressed interest so far

Two other projects are in the works for Arden Hills: a $15 million armory, currently in the design phase, and a $39 million vehicle maintenance facility The State Designer Selection Board will select an architect for the latter project this fall and it's funded for construction in fiscal year 2011

"That one is a go," Vesely said

In Mankato, the Minnesota National Guard is proposing a $175 million field maintenance shop The 61,500-square-foot building with steel frame or masonry walls will include 13 vehicle bays for maintenance, tool and parts rooms, offices, conference and classrooms, shower and locker rooms and equipments rooms

In early August, the State Designer Selection Board chose Mankato-based Paulson Architects to design the Mankato facility, which will be built next to the existing Mankato Armory Construction and funding schedules are to be determined

Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects, said trends in military construction are hard to track because so much is dependent on how much funding comes out of Washington

"It's very hard to predict what is going on in those markets 12, 18, 24 months out "¦ Folks need to track those on a project-by-project basis It's difficult to generalize about what is going to happen there

"We don't track it a lot But certainly that is one of a fairly small and focused areas where there is growth in non-residential activity at present and probably will get through this downturn without any scale-backs"

Besides the new construction, the US Department of Military Affairs says it's scrambling to keep up with maintenance its 18 million square feet of armory space and 26 million square feet of training and housing buildings in the state

On average, those buildings are 42 years old A handful date to the pre-World War I era, and other batches were constructed in the 1950s and 1970s

"We are going to have [some buildings] probably for 100-plus years," Vesely said "Every 20 years you are going to have to put a new roof on it It's not uncommon for us to be putting four or five roofs on a building"

The 2008 Legislature authorized $6 million in deferred maintenance funding for the existing buildings; the deferred maintenance projects are eligible for a 50 percent federal match

Vesely said the department is in the process of bidding five "batched" programs, or groups of deferred maintenance projects Two more batched programs should be going out for bid in the next few weeks, he said

The idea is to focus on a building that has a major need " a bad roof, for example " and take care of all maintenance needs in that building while bringing it up to modern codes One of the goals is to bring buildings up to code for overnight sleeping so they can be used as emergency shelters

Written by Brian Johnson,
Finance and Commerce
August 25, 2008
Article source: http://www.finance-commerce.com



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