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Proposed closures of military bases spares local depots

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Posted: Friday, May 13, 2005 10:00 pm

Tracy breathed a sigh of relief Friday as towns around the country pondered a future without their military bases.

The Defense Distribution Center on Chrisman Road, a complex of warehouses serving the U.S. military that has been one of the region's job centers since 1942, will remain relatively unaffected by proposed cuts.

"We heard about it this morning," said Barbara Borras, owner of Reich's Grocery on the corner of Chrisman and Linne Roads. "A guy came in and said, 'The depot is saved!' So that's nice news."

Borras said the grocery store, which relies on people dropping by for sandwiches and lottery tickets for much of its business, is a regular lunchtime stop for depot workers.

"It's great news for this community and this region," said Tracy Mayor Dan Bilbrey. "It would really be a tough hit if this were to happen."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced recommendations for closure or reorganization of U.S. military bases on Friday morning and released a list of bases and the military and civilian jobs affected.

Of the net loss of 26,187 jobs nationwide only 31 would come from the Tracy center, which employs about 1,550 civilians, nearly all at the Tracy site.

The Defense Distribution Depot San Joaquin is run by the U.S. Defense Department and is composed of centers in Tracy and Lathrop.

The Lathrop site, formerly known as Sharpe Army Depot, is used for long-term storage.

Local officials lobbied hard for preservation of the jobs at the Tracy site, going to Washington D.C. in March to talk with defense department officials in a meeting arranged by Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

"It helped us more hearing what they believed the (Base Realignment and Closure) commission was looking for," Bilbrey said. "What was really an interesting fact was that 25 percent of the support effort in Iraq and Afghanistan was coming out of Tracy."

Jackie Noble, spokeswoman for the Defense Logistics Agency, affirmed that it's the West Coast hub for supplies heading to the Western U.S. and Pacific Rim.

"San Joaquin is a very critical asset to the Department of Defense," she said.

The report notes that Tracy is one of several defense department sites where the job of distributing tires and packaged petroleum products like lubricants and compressed gases would be handed over to private contractors over six years starting in 2006.

The Tracy depot, a 1,600-acre site with 30 warehouses, has one building stacked to the rafters with all sizes and types of tires.

Noble said it's still too early to say how people who work in these areas will be affected but she said it's unlikely the local depot will have layoffs.

Contact reporter Bob Brownne at brownne@tracypress.com.

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