Above is a rendering of the basic look of Armed Forces Reserve Centers being built around the country. Drawing by the U.S. Department of Defense.
By SEAN BATURA
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will soon award a contract for construction and design of a 600-member Armed Forces Reserve Center (AFRC) in San Marcos.
The AFRC will consist of a 131,154-square foot building, 19,153-square foot vehicle maintenance shop, 3,008-square foot organization storage unit and a 26,987-square foot parking lot, all of which are to be located on what is now 19 acres of corn and cotton fields along Clovis Barker Road, near the future Leah Street intersection, about a quarter of a mile east of I-35.
The Army recently bought the land for about $1.77 million from Houston-based Clovis Barker Business Park, L.P.
The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission in 2005 urged construction an AFRC in San Marcos, among other locations in Texas. The BRAC Commission’s recommendations for reforming the Defense Department’s infrastructure and force structure became federal law the same year, making the existence of an AFRC in San Marcos virtually inevitable.
The February 2007 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) 2005 Commission Fiscal Year 2008/2009 Budget Estimates submitted to Congress put the cost of the San Marcos AFRC at $24 million. Construction of the AFRC could begin in the fall and be finished a year later.
“The new facility would provide administrative, assembly, educational, storage vault, weapons simulators and physical fitness training facilities to accommodate two U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) and up to four Texas Army National Guard (ARNG) units from San Marcos, Sequin (sic) and New Braunfels, Texas, should the state decide to relocate these units,” states a December 2008 environmental assessment report prepared by the Army.
According to the environmental assessment, no weapon systems will be used at the San Marcos AFRC. The Army’s February 2007 BRAC document indicates the Army plans on moving all reserve units from New Braunfels, San Marcos and Seguin to the San Marcos AFRC in Aprill 2011.
Amy Madison, Director of Economic Development San Marcos, said people visiting the AFRC from elsewhere in Texas and from out of state will spread the word about San Marcos, increasing the city’s prestige.
“We’ll see a lot of traffic as a result of that, and obviously those dollars are going to be dropping in our restaurants and our hotels and many of our gas stations,” Madison said.
Army Reserve BRAC Transition Coordinator Roger Manaugh said some troops undergoing weekend training at the AFRC may occasionally bring their families to the area. The Army will have lodging in kind contracts with local hotels, where troops will spend Friday and Saturday nights.
“Local vendors will be used to repair and maintain the facility,” said Manaugh. “Plumbers, electricians, things like that …There’ll be a firm there, local, probably like a Golden Corral or something like that, that will be hired to bring meals out on Saturday and Sunday.”
According to the Army’s environmental assessment report, “permanent increases in traffic” will occur along I-35, Clovis Barker Road and Highway 123 during operation of the AFRC.
“However, most of these increases would occur during training activities, which would be scheduled primarily on weekends,” the environmental assessment states. “Daily increases in vehicle traffic would be expected to be less than 15 vehicle trips per weekday and up to 100 vehicle trips on the training weekends. Therefore, the operation of the AFRC would result in minor (less than 1 percent) long-term increases in traffic.”
Because the federal government acquired the 19 acres on Clovis Barker Road from a private entity, the land is newly tax-exempt. Due to an agricultural exemption, the land had been assessed at $4,100 instead of its $509,760 agricultural market value. However, the 19 acres may have eventually been assessed at a much higher value, as the land is unplatted.
“It could be because the zoning in that area is kind of in a state of flux,” said San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission Chair Sherwood Bishop. “So even something that’s considered right now to be light industrial could be changed to commercial or to residential, whatever.”
The 363rd Quartermaster Battalion is headquartered near San Marcos City Hall in a 45 year-old, 19,421 square foot building leased by the Army from the city. The city will regain control of the land and building after the 363rd moves to the AFRC, which will be a more secure facility than the unit’s current building.
“It’ll benefit us a whole lot,” said 363rd Master Sergeant Gary Hollins.
Hollins said the proximity of the skate park, the occasional presence of homeless people, and the competition between soldiers and dog park patrons for parking makes the Army Reserve Center near City Hall less secure than it should be.
“Any Reserve Center should be fenced-in,” said Hollins. “But we got a dog park right next door … It’s a security issue. Because who’s to say who can come here and do something, saying they’re going to walk their dog?”
Thirty-three soldiers from the 363rd are deployed to Iraq, and two additional soldiers from that unit are on individual readiness reserve status in Iraq while they finish out their civilian contracts with KBR. Most 363rd soldiers are from Central Texas.
After the 363rd moves to the AFRC, the city may use rthe present reserve center for more offices, said San Marcos City Councilmember John Thomaides.
“I know in city hall, the staff over there … they’re almost sitting on top of each other in very small, little offices,” Thomaides said.
Thomaides said once the city completes its facilities review in the summer, councilmembers will have a better idea of how to best use the newly-available land.
Manaugh said another Army Reserve Center will be built near Centerpoint Road in San Marcos, probably by the year 2012. Unlike the AFRC, which is a BRAC facility, the new Army Reserve Center would be constructed under Grow the Army.
“It’s a program that actually came from the War on Terror, where they determined that there wasn’t enough strength in the military,” said Manaugh. “They’re growing the force across all the services — Navy, Marines, Army and Air Force.”
Manaugh said the AFRC may play a support role in recruitment activities at Texas State University and nearby high schools. He said it is possible that students might be given tours of the AFRC and informed of educational and professional opportunities afforded by the military.
The 16 other AFRCs planned for Texas include those to be located in Camp Bullis, Grand Prairie, East Houston, Seagoville, Fort Bliss, Northwest Houston, Tyler, Round Rock, Lewisville, Amarillo, Dyess Air Force Base, Red River Army Depot, Kingsville, Huntsville, Lufkin and Brownsville.