Eliminating the Middleman in McClellan Clean-up Efforts

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It’s one of the oldest tricks in business – cutting out the middleman.  And now, the Air Force, Sacramento County and the company entrusted with redeveloping McClellan Air Force Base have done just that.  They’re jump-starting cleanup efforts on a small parcel of land.  It’s the first such experiment in the nation and other former military communities are watching.

For over half a century, says the Air Force’s Phil Mook, McClellan Air Force Base just north of Sacramento was an aircraft depot.

“It was always bring aircraft in, manufacture it and send it out to other operations.”

Now, says developer Alan Hersh, it’s becoming "a mixed-use office industrial business park.”

Houses, hotels, apartments -- and some pretty high-tech businesses, too.

“This is a solar company," Hersh says, "and this company here is a helicopter flight school.”

The list is quite long, and if you let him, Hersh will name every business and government agency that’s on it as he shows you around the former base.

"And over here is a guy who prints t-shirts." 

Some of those companies are already here, using 9 million square feet of existing buildings.  But there’s still another 7 million square feet left to develop.  And before Hersh’s company can do that, there’s that troublesome matter of cleanup.

"The main contaminant of concern," says Mook, "are PCBs that were used in oils for cooling transformers and other industrial products.”

The Air Force’s Phil Mook can’t tell you what PCB stands for.  But he can tell you it’s one of those pesky toxins that can lead to cancer.

Now normally, when the Pentagon shuts a contaminated base down … the military cleans the land up … then turns it over to the local government … which in turn transfers it to the developer … which at long last can do something with the land!  But on Monday, for the first time ever, the military gave a 62-acre parcel at McClellan’s southern end straight to the developer – Hersh’s McClellan Park – thus bypassing Sacramento County.

“We -- McClellan Business Park and the county -- are essentially stepping into the Air Force’s and Department of Defense shoes," Hersh says, "and saying, treat us as if we made the contamination.  We’re the responsible party now for cleaning it up.”

Hersh says the Environmental Protection Agency will supervise the cleanup effort.

The developer wins because everything gets built more quickly.  The county benefits from getting its economic boost sooner.  And the Air Force?  Well, they’d just as soon focus on national security.

Other communities redeveloping former military bases are watching this experiment.  Near Monterey, the Fort Ord Reuse Authority is working with the Army on a similar plan.  And if everything with these 62 acres goes as planned, look for other parts of McClellan to follow suit.