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Storm Recovery Efforts Continue at Seabees’ Base

Mon June 02, 2008 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

During August 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused millions of dollars worth of damage to the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) in Gulfport, Miss., home to several thousand Seabees.

Now, nearly three years after the hurricane devastated the Gulf Coast, eight projects are underway on the base as part of the Hurricane Katrina Recapitalization Program. These eight projects represent nearly one-half of the revitalization to restore the base to its pre-Katrina state as well as improve many areas.

The construction projects that are presently underway are the beginning of the renovations and improvements to NCBC’s operational and quality-of-life facilities. Facilities that were damaged during Hurricane Katrina will be replaced and installation improvements will shield the base from similar destruction during future storms. The improvements also will enhance the morale and welfare of Seabees and their families who endured the destruction of Katrina.

Groundbreaking was held in November 2007 for two large construction contracts (consisting of eight projects) worth $157.3 million. Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Southeast awarded the contracts, which include a $65 million contract to Debcon Inc. of Ashland, Ky., to build 212 new housing units at NCBC. The largest contract under the Recapitalization Program, a $93 million mega-package for the design and construction of seven projects at NCBC, was awarded to W.G. Yates Construction, based in Philadelphia, Miss.

Debcon began construction of the new housing units approximately a year ago. Work will proceed in phases for about two and half years to meet a completion date of April 2010. The 212 units include 28 single-family units and 184 duplexes and are being built to meet hurricane-resistance standards. The housing project also includes common areas for residents; these common areas will consist of basketball courts, walking/bike trails, play lots, and picnic areas to name a few.

The phases of construction will occur on three locations on base: Magnolia Court, Seabee Lake and Sylvester Drive. Magnolia Court, consisting of 84 units, will be completed first with some units available late this year. Elevation and drainage improvements are ongoing and began prior to the start of construction in September. At Magnolia Court, workers presently are pouring the building slabs and placing underground utilities. Framing will begin soon.

Lt. J.G. David Frye, assistant operations officer for the officer in charge of construction, stated, “We’re trying to get some finished by October 2008 at Magnolia Court.”

Construction at the Seabee Lake location has approval from the Army Corps of Engineers that the project is in compliance with state and federal regulations pertaining to wetlands.

“It is important that we ensure compliance with the ’no net loss’ policy on wetlands,” Frye explained. “We have crossed all hurdles to build on the wetlands and are hauling in fill and doing site preparation.”

The contractor has to replace approximately 8 acres (3.2 ha) of wetlands to build on the Seabee Lake site. In the meantime, earthwork continues and framing has started.

Construction of housing at the Sylvester Drive location will begin once Seabee Lake has been finished. Existing housing must be demolished before the new structures can be built.

The contract awarded to W.G. Yates Construction is separated into seven projects: a new fitness center, a navy exchange (NEX) with a cold storage facility, a training hall, a security complex, bachelor enlisted quarters (BEQ), a command control building for the 22nd Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) and base-wide storm drainage improvements.

Yates started construction of the $22 million, 58,000 sq. ft. (5,390 sq m) fitness center this past November. This multipurpose recreation complex will include a gymnasium, a swimming pool, an aerobics room and a variety of exercise equipment. In fact, NCBC’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) office is funding $1.5 million for all new equipment. The contractor is performing earthwork, prepping for slabs and installing underground utilities. The fitness center will be completed by August 2009.

The NEX and cold storage project consists of a 41,700 sq. ft. (3,870 sq m) retail center, a Subway and a Navy Federal Credit Union. Also, nearly 10,000 sq. ft. (930 sq m) will be incorporated into the building to house the NEX administration and for cold storage. The facility is being constructed over the footprint of a movie theater, which was demolished in January. When the new facility is complete, the existing Navy exchange will be demolished in order to provide space for site development and parking.

Furthermore, the NEX project calls for the renovation of retail center building 365, which will be converted to 80 Navy Knowledge Online Workstations and a permanent single-sailor center. The single-sailor center is similar to a liberty center that caters to younger sailors who don’t have transportation or families on base. This one will contain a recreation hall and a library.

According to Frye, the contractor is 60 percent of the way through digging the huge footers and is performing slab preparation. The NEX retail center is slated for opening in April 2009. The associated parking, site development and renovation of building 365 will be completed by October 2009.

Contractors have placed the slab for what will be the Training Hall, a 600-seat auditorium/theater. The building will have a large lobby and reception area for events and Seabee heritage displays. The facility also will be used for battalion indoctrination and deployment as well as for graduations, ceremonies and movies.

The five-story BEQ building, which will house up to 328 sailors in 82 modules, is scheduled to open September 2009. The modules will have two semi-private sleeping/living rooms, four walk-in closets and an adjoining semi-private bath and toilet shared by up to four people.

Currently, the contractor is performing earthwork, prepping for slabs and installing underground utilities.

Yates also is doing site work on the 22nd NCR Command and Control Facility, a 19,500 sq. ft. (1,810 sq m), two-story building intended to provide much needed operational and administrative space to the 22nd NCR. When building this facility, the contractor must make allowance for a future project, the 25th NCR facility that will be constructed adjacent to the building.

Site work also is being performed on the security complex, which includes an upgrade and addition to the existing fire station.

“They will rehab the fire station and build a new security building — not attached,” Frye said.

For the storm drainage project, Yates will have workers move around the base repairing storm drainage and ditches. The existing drainage system is being repaired so that it will better accommodate the volume of rainfall experienced during a hurricane or tropical storm.

Frye gave accolades to the contractors for their coordination efforts.

“Yates is working very well with all other contractors on base,” Frye said. “It is a big coordination effort and an exciting challenge.”

As for overall progress, he said the designs are finalized and, for the most part, site work is getting started.

The amount of construction occurring on the NCBC base is described by Frye as “astronomical.” He estimates that 250 dump trucks travel the base per day. That is no small task considering that the base must remain fully operational during construction, allowing Seabees and their families to go about their normal lives.

“Approximately 4,400 Seabees are stationed at NCBC,” said Bonnie Lindley-McGer, public affairs officer at NCBC Gulfport. Another 1,500 Seabee reservists come to the base for training and drilling in order to prepare for missions.

Seabees function as support for operating units of the Naval Construction Force. Their mission is to prepare for and support all facets of the mobilization of construction forces, including reserve units. Furthermore, NCBC is responsible for preservation and storage of war reserves, including construction equipment and materials.

Even though construction is the Seabees’ forte, they do not have a hand in the ongoing base construction. “This is their homeport,” Frye said. “The Seabees are busy preparing for their missions overseas.”

In the end, the Seabees will benefit greatly from the base improvements. Sue Brink, public affairs officer NAVFAC Southeast, said the projects will “improve quality of life while the Seabees are at home at NCBC. The projects provide much needed training and mission readiness improvements.” CEG

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