Safety at forefront of fort construction concerns
Nearby residents express distress about crew’s entrance point for work on disciplinary barracks
With construction on Fort Leavenworth's planned $95 million minimum- and medium-security disciplinary barracks slated to begin in spring 2008, it has yet to be determined how construction crews will access the site near 159th Street and Coffin Road.
That issue was discussed by engineers, fort officials, residents living along the proposed haul route and Leavenworth County Commissioners in a meeting Thursday, Dec. 13, at the Leavenworth County Courthouse.
David Manka, with the Kansas City district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, told the roughly 20 people present that engineers were looking at the possibility of doing one portion of the project outside the post and using Coffin Road north of the fort as a possible haul route for the project.
County Commissioners had previously raised concerns about dust control on gravel roads and surpassing the weight limit on an 11-ton bridge on Coffin Road.
Residents at the meeting voiced other concerns as well.
Matt Broaddus, at 16279 Coffin Rd., said he was concerned about lighting from the barracks reaching his home.
His wife, Angela Broaddus, said that people walk with their kids by the fencing for the fort and that she didn't want them to hear prisoners' conversations.
The concern that was most discussed, however, was using county roads to haul materials.
"There's a big problem," Bill Kromer, who has lived off 159th Street for nearly 40 years, said. "It's not dust so much as the safety."
Kromer told Brent Ferguson, a senior project manager with Kansas City, Mo.-based JE Dunn Construction, the prime contractor for the project, "This is just not a road that's intended for high traffic use or for construction vehicles."
Kromer said a "blind curve" west of 159th Street on Fort Riley Road allowed access for just one vehicle at a time.
He added that he was twice run off the road by large trucks when the first maximum-security disciplinary barracks were being rebuilt between 1998 and 2002.
Kromer's wife, Joy Kromer, also noted that 21 school-age children live along the proposed haul route and that there is even a bus stop on Fort Riley Road.
She told the other residents present, "The prison's going to be built. There's nothing we can do about that : but we can make sure those roads (159th Street and Fort Riley Road) are safe."
Leavenworth County resident Don Murphy asked Ferguson what incentive his company had for circumventing Fort Leavenworth.
"How does doing extra miles save money in the long run?" Murphy asked.
Ferguson responded, "Really the consideration is just about time."
He estimated a $200,000 savings from not having to undergo a full security check every time a truck enters or exits the fort.
Ferguson emphasized that the project is still in its planning stages.
"If this secondary route isn't found to be favorable, we still have the first option of going through post," he said.
After an environmental assessment for the new disciplinary barracks is completed, the project will be turned over to engineers with the Army Corps of Engineers, Jack Walker, Fort Leavenworth's deputy garrison commander, said.
Walker said the minimum- and medium-security facility will lie adjacent to the current maximum-security disciplinary barracks and will house military prisoners from Fort Knox, Fort Sill and Lackland Air Force Base.
In addition to the $95 million expended on the new disciplinary barracks, money will be spent on other projects on the fort.
Walker said $55 million in federal funding will go toward building battalion and company operations buildings, residential barracks for workers at the prison, a motor pool and a dining facility on main post in fiscal year 2008.