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First Gillem closing set May 2

The Army had been a presence in Forest Park since 1941 until it was closed. The former base is being bought by the city for redevelopment as a business, industrial and commercial park. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

The Army had been a presence in Forest Park since 1941 until it was closed. The former base is being bought by the city for redevelopment as a business, industrial and commercial park. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

FOREST PARK — Officials are preparing to close May 2 on about 778 acres inside Fort Gillem, the first step toward the city’s acquisition of the former Army base, officials said.

The announcement was made Wednesday during the monthly meeting of Forest Park/Fort Gillem Implementation Local Redevelopment Authority by Executive Director Fred Bryant.

“We’re on track for a May 2 closing on 778 acres, more or less,” said Bryant. “We’re inviting a number of people to the ceremony and we’re hoping that date will stand.”

The announcement was welcome news to Forest Park Councilwoman Linda Lord and the other members of the joint committee.

“We’ve been doing this since 2005,” she said, letting out a mock sigh of relief to laughter from the rest of the board.

Councilman Tommy Smith shared that reaction.

“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Among those invited to the ceremony is U.S. Army Assistant Secretary Katherine Hammack, who is over Installations, Energy and Environment, said Bryant. Hammack is the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army and Chief of Staff of the Army on all matters related to installation policy, oversight and coordination of energy, security and management, according to her biography on the U.S. Army website.

“We’re expecting other dignitaries from the Army, too,” said Bryant.

The closing ceremony will be held inside the foyer of First Army headquarters, he said.

Officials could close on more acreage before the end of the year.

“There are 400 acres that have to go through the FOSET process and the governor has to sign off on the sale,” said Bryant. “Our goal is to get the rest of the property in the fall.”

Findings of Suitability for Early Transfer, or FOSET, certifies that property is compatible with the proposed use and that the use restrictions or remedies in place, if any, protect human health and the environment, according to the Army.

The committee voted in June to contract with Weston Solutions to perform clean-up duties for $195,000. The price is what it will cost to get an Environmental Services Cooperative Agreement, a grant from the U.S. Army to the authority to get site clean-up and closure and integrate remediation with redevelopment.

The Army is paying all costs to clean contaminated soil on Gillem. Forest Park is also not footing the bill to remove propane tanks on Gillem and equipment and other fixtures from Building 516. In fact, the city will profit from the project, which will be licensed through the Army Corps of Engineers, said Bryant.

“There are a number of companies poised to come in an offer to do the services at no cost to the city,” he said. “They will be paying us to do what they do — a substantial amount of money — but I am reluctant to give the figure during an open forum just yet.”