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Plans Unveiled For Ammo Plant
A plan to transform the former Riverbank Army Ammunition Plant into a manufacturing center and industrial park, concentrating on "green businesses" and calculated ultimately to provide 2,000 new jobs, was unveiled at the site Thursday by the Local Redevelopment Authority representing the City of Riverbank.

"This plan represents an important opportunity to retain and attract new businesses and bring new jobs to the community," said Mayor Chris Crifasi, acting as chair of the LRA. "Implementing a base reuse plan is no small feat for a small community with limited resources. It has been a huge and complicated undertaking and we've really only just begun the redevelopment process. But we're thrilled to see the process come this far and are eager to continue it. "

The LRA released the plan at an event that included tours of the installation and its current industrial tenants plus an opportunity to learn about the base closure process and what the future holds for the installation in civilian hands.

Key features in the reuse plan include:

• Helping the existing tenants expand their businesses and create more jobs.

• Attracting additional environmentally friendly or "green" businesses and the cooperation of their companies in completing all the processing stages on site.

• Assisting local firms in need of manufacturing space to move to the site.

• Developing an innovative bio-digester program that with the cooperation of local dairies, CalEPA and private investors could produce enough energy to power the entire facility.

The 173-acre site on the southeast edge of town originally housed an aluminum smelting plant and then an Army shell case manufacturing plant, which for over six decades provided city residents with thousands of jobs and contributed to the local economy.

Later converting part of the site to the Riverbank Industrial Center housing a dozen civilian business companies managed by Norris Industries, the Army finally in 2005 slated it for closure under the Base Realignment and Closure Act and began work to transfer it entirely to civilian use, which must be completed by 2011.

Stanislaus County Supervisor Bill O'Brien attended the event to announce the county recently approved a loan of $750,000 to help fuel the creation of jobs at the site.

"The reuse plan holds great promise to further distinguish this community with an entirely new kind of commercial and industrial park that will offer thousands of new jobs and lead the way to a new niche employment cluster," he said.

Representatives of several of the businesses operating at the plant also were on hand. The LRA has been working with them to determine their future growth and encourage them to stay on and expand their businesses.

"We are very optimistic about the reuse plan and encouraged by the interest in our success that the City of Riverbank has exhibited," said Gary DeLaurentiis, chief technology officer for ECO2 Plastics Inc, a plastic recycling company currently working at the installation. "We anticipate adding a minimum of 100 new jobs in the next 12 months."

For more information or to comment on the reuse plan, call the city's Economic Development Manager Debbie Olson at 209-863-7157 or visit Copies of the document are also available for viewing at Riverbank City Hall at 6707 Third St. in the downtown.

Much of the base has ground pollution caused by chemicals released by Alcoa and the Army, is on the Superfund national list of contaminated sites, and is still in the process of cleaning by a pump system installed by the Army years ago.

Some of the site in the extreme north and south, however, was never contaminated and is available for early development, Olson told a questioner, adding the Army remains responsible for the cost and work of cleaning the entire site.

Now that the city has published its reuse plan, the next stage is up to the Army, which must determine the method of transfer.

This can range from conveyance to the LRA for public benefit, (such as airports, hospitals, schools and parks); for economic development and the creation or retention of jobs; for public sale by negotiated purchase, sealed public bid, or public auction; or for military construction transformation.

The Riverbank LRA will pursue a combination of these methods, an economic development conveyance and public sale for most of the property and a public benefit conveyance to allow future widening of Claus and Claribel roads.