CORAOPOLIS, Pa. (AP) - The Pentagon has freed up $17.2 million to build a new commissary and post exchange on county-owned land west of Pittsburgh.
The stores will serve about 170,000 active, retired and reserve military members and their families within a 100-mile radius and will ensure military families in that area won't have to drive to Dayton, Ohio or Carlisle, Pa., the next closest locations for similar facilities.
The plan approved by the military on Monday calls for a 43,000-square-foot supermarket or commissary and a 10,000-square-foot department store or post exchange to be built on land owned by Allegheny County in Moon Township. That's about 10 miles west of the city.
Planning for the new facilities began when the Defense Department announced in 2005 that it was closing the Charles E. Kelly Military Support Facility in Oakdale. That base finally closed in 2009, but local lawmakers and military officials have worked to keep the commissary and post exchange there open until the new facilities could be built.
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"This has been a long process since 2005; a lot of people have been pushing for this," said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, a Pittsburgh-area Republican.
Monday's memo was sent by Acting Under Secretary of Defense JoAnn Rooney to the Defense Commissary Agency. Rooney determined that the money needed to build the facilities didn't require any more congressional approval. The money had been tied up by the U.S. Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, but it was released effective Dec. 1, according to the memo.
The commissary and PX will be built near Interstate 376 next to the McGarity Army Reserve Center, a few miles from the existing Charles E. Kelly stores. Those stores will close when the new facilities open.
Murphy said the green light means the government can now ask contractors for proposals in the next 30 days or so and set a construction date.
Retired Air Force Col. Jerry Kintigh, who chairs the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Job Retention and Military Presence, which has pushed for the new facilities, said it will probably take about three years for them to open.
"It's good news, but there's a lot of work to be done, and there has to be some serious coordination between multiple parties," Kintigh said.