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Base officials spell out plan for Oak Park

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- A recent town hall meeting provided about 50 residents of the neighborhood adjoining Oak Park military family housing with an update on Keesler's immediate and long-range plans for the area.  

Oak Park was slammed by Hurricane Katrina's storm surge from Biloxi's Back Bay, destroying many homes and flooding others. High winds toppled trees that crushed many residences. 

Homes won't be rebuilt, and demolition is under way to remove those still standing and associated utilities, according to Lt. Col. Ray Mottley, 81st Civil Engineer Squadron commander, who conducted the meeting. 

Keesler lost six acres in Oak Park due to new Federal Emergency Management
Agency flood contours. The base plans to incorporate its Oak Park property into
the main base, primarily because of force protection requirements and expansion
at Keesler Medical Center immediately to the south. 

Construction of an eight-foot-high metal fence begins soon and should be finished
by March, Colonel Mottley said. Plans call for a 50- to 75-foot green space buffer
between the fence and the property line. Parts of St. George, Tremont and Concord Circles and St. Andrews Fairway are being demolished to reduce storm runoff and maintenance costs. 

Fire hydrants and street lights remain in place.  Turnarounds are planned
for Kensington Drive and Concord Circle, with streets to be widened if necessary.
The medical center's central energy plant, about 160 feet from the Oak Park border,
is being relocated to protect vital equipment from flooding in the future. New
landscaping is planned along this portion of the perimeter fence.
Colonel Mottley said a temporary gate supports inbound construction traffic
for the next two to four years, while 16 new projects totaling more than $540 million are under way.  Efforts are being made to divert construction traffic from residential streets.
A temporary storage area for materials to support Keesler's $287.8 million housing
construction program over the next four years is being located in Oak Park's southwest corner.  After Katrina recovery projects are completed, base officials plan to use the Oak Park property for recreational purposes, child care facility expansion and recreational vehicle storage.