Sheppard Air Force Base will soon get new security and transportation upgrades. Wichita Falls City Councilors approved spending $1.25 million dollars for the project at the council meeting Tuesday.
The funding will come from the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation. It will come in the form of a forgivable loan that requires Sheppard Air Force Base to retain 1,000 jobs over a period of one year.
However, the incentive package is just one piece of the puzzle. The total cost for the project is $3.5 million.
City officials said $500,000 will come from the City’s Federal Transit Funds, and they hope the rest of the money comes in the form of grants. They are working to get $1.75 million from the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant (DEAAG).
“This is exactly what we need and as we continue thinking about this we're reminded in the world how dangerous the world can be,” said Tim Ingle, Wichita Falls City Councilman.
The money will be used to acquire and demolish properties that sit too close to Sheppard’s main gate. Seven properties are on the list.
“Security enforced protection is always issues that we're concerned about at Sheppard and any Air Force base,” said George Woodward, Chief of Public Affairs at Sheppard Air Force Base. “Protection of our people, our resources and the mission are priority.”
What used to be the Econo Inn on Burkburnett road is one of the properties city officials say is essential to have demolished. It’s just too close the base and could create easy targets for terror, according to city officials.
However, while the Econo Inn sits vacant another priority property to be demolished is an apartment complex that is currently occupied by residents.
“My son's been here for ten years,” said Jean McCoy, the mother of a resident at the Pioneer Apartments.
McCoy said she learned about the possibility of demolition through an article in the newspaper.
“The landlord said that he could move over there next to me in those apartments,” said McCoy. “So he's already got a place to go it’s just getting him moved because he's disabled.
While she says the move will have a good ending it will take a lot of work.
“It's going to be hard,” said McCoy. “We're going to have to get a U-Haul to help us pack and help us move.”
Residents at that apartment complex said the landlord has talked to them about moving to another complex he owns. We reached out to him and he did not return calls.
While the fate of the apartment and Econo Inn is almost certain, those inside the other shopping centers and businesses near those buildings are still not sure what to expect.
The project will also help fix transportation problems in the area. The current bus stop on Burkburnett Road will also be moved. The bus stop will be out of the way of traffic and will also provide a parking lot for those using the public transportation, according to city officials.
In order to demolish all the buildings they still need the matching grant funds. City officials are expected to submit an application for the grant this Friday. The city expects to hear more on that money this December or January.