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Defense Post Olson Tapped For Panel
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The efficiency of Riverbank's conversion of its Army Ammunition Plant to industrial use has not gone unnoticed. And one person behind much of the efficient effort, Debbie Olson, has been named to the National Board of Directors for the Association of Defense Communities, ADC.

Olson, City Manager Rich Holmer, Riverbank Mayor Virginia Madueno and ammo plant Project Management Specialist Pam Carder attended the recent ADC conference in San Francisco, Sunday though Wednesday, Aug. 8 through 11, and Olson was also a speaker at the conference.

"Riverbank has gotten some attention because our project has run very smoothly," Olson, the executive director of the Local Redevelopment Authority, said modestly of the conversion of the former Army Ammunition Plant to an industrial park as part of the BRAC, Base Realignment and Closure act.

"We've been able to do things large sites haven't," she explained. "We've been able to take control of the site and get some economic development going.

"We may be small, but we're pretty mighty."

Though the ammo plant has not been formerly turned over to the city as yet, the conversion continues and the city is actively seeking more tenants for the industrial park site.

"We've got grants, we've received funding to do some projects well before other sites," Olson continued.

Not all the grants have been received yet, but Olson said the ammo plant/industrial park has received some $38.6 million grant awards and she expects that close to $10 million of that will be in LRA hands by the end of the year.

Olson was named to the National Board of Directors for ADC at the session and will help guide the conversion of bases.

"I'm part of the ADC for the next three years," Olson said of sitting on the board of directors. "Our job is oversight of the direction it (base conversion) goes, we will be meeting with the defense secretary directly."

Holmer said attending the San Francisco session was beneficial in that city leaders learned more about the conversion process and were able to share ideas with cities in similar situations, having a base closure.

There were workshops on a number of issues, Holmer said, from what occurs when a base is closed and the site turned over, as well as tours of sites and a mobile workshop with visits to the Alameda Navy property that is now a 485-unit residential community, school and park.

"We also had discussions on funding, which is always the most important thing, and we received legislative updates," Holmer added.

Clean up of sites is also still an issue, with the Army's clean up of contaminated groundwater at the Riverbank site still ongoing.

"The army is on the hook for the clean up and it will be going on for quite some time," Holmer said. "There are still some minor pockets but the space (contaminated) has really shrunk. We will do our due diligence before we take ownership."

Olson said she is excited to be part of the growth at the site, with the city leasing the property right now from the Army, prior to taking over the ownership once the clean up is complete. She said "three or four businesses a week" come to look at the site for possibly locating a business there.

"Riverbank has been in the national news as an economical place to do business," Olson said. "We started with nine businesses there, now we have 17 tenants."

Holmer said he expects the growth to continue as well.

"Really the key thing is getting face time with the Army, or Air Force or Navy, whatever your base is," he said of gaining the attention and support of military leaders. "We had that time."