Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sees the Forest Park Naval Reserve Center as expendable and wants it closed. Senator Barack Obama pledges to fight to save it. Forest Park Village Administrator Michael Sturino says the Roosevelt Road site may be a development opportunity. And Mayor Anthony Calderone says it is too soon to know what will happen.
What is certain is that the Forest Park site, 7410 W. Roosevelt Rd., is one of 775 military facilities slated by the Pentagon for “minor closures and realignments.”
On the chopping block, officials say, are the 15 military related jobs in town.
The Pentagon’s recommendations were sent to the nine-member Base Realignment and Closure Commission, known as BRAC. The commission will begin a long process, scheduled to end in November, in which the commission will make final recommendations on which bases will be closed.
Calderone, however, said it was still too early in the process to comment on the proposed closure.
“Based on what I’ve read, it seems to be on the block,” he said. “But [I] don’t have enough information to make a comment. Seems as though Donald Rumsfeld is making a recommendation but I think there is more yet to come. Even beyond that we don’t know what the government has in store because it is way too early. Let’s say they close the Navy Center. Does that mean they are automatically going to sell the property. We can’t anticipate any redevelopment until we know what they are going to do with the property.”
Calderone added that the closing of the Navy base might not mean the end of the center.
“There is also an Army reserve center there,” he said. “That one building houses both Army and Navy.”
Village Administrator Michael Sturino said he does not necessarily view the closing as a negative event.
“A final decision from Washington won’t be reached until November,” Sturino said. “My view is that it presents a redevelopment opportunity that could benefit our community.”
According to Sturino there would be no civilian job losses, however, redevelopment of the site could create many more job opportunities for the residents of Forest Park.
“This isn’t like Scott Air Force Base, where there are thousands of jobs,” he said. “It is a property in the heart of our commercial corridor.”
Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) said he was pleased that the Great Lakes Facility in Illinois was spared but vowed to fight the other closings.
“I seriously question the wisdom of this proposed move,” he wrote in an e-mail to the REVIEW. “I believe that the Pentagon has made an error. It seems to me that spending a bunch of money to create a new medical training unit in Texas, when we already have one here in Illinois, makes absolutely no sense and I pledge to work with Senator [Dick] Durbin and Governor Blagojevich to fight this decision.”
For his part U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) said he was disappointed the base was on the list.
“We have been trying to get more answers from the Naval liaison for Congress, but right now I am disappointed that the Forest Park Naval Reserve center is slated to be closed,” he said. “I am going to be asking the BRAC Commission why this center is on the list. It is only 15 jobs there, but we do have 600 Army and Navy military personnel who come through there on a monthly basis so it does help the community there.”
Lipinski said he will be asking the commission for information on where the jobs would be transferred to and why the base was put on the list and would work form there.
The commission will be holding hearings and will receive input from the military services involved in the closings. The discovery process will end on Sept. 8.
That day they will be forwarding recommendations to President George W. Bush, who then has to approve or disapprove them by November 7, Lipinski said.
After that Congress will have 45 days to vote the closings up or down.