|The Navy, which has kept the public guessing about whether it will demolish historic Hangar One at Moffett Field, is scheduled to announce its decision in early December.
"If all goes well, it [the decision] will go out in early December," said Navy spokesperson Darren Newton in a phone interview last week. It was the same thing he said to dozens of people at the last Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board meeting Nov. 8.
After saying last year that it had decided to demolish the huge hangar, the Navy stepped back from that position after a huge public outcry and strong criticism of its analysis, and has spent the last year re-evaluating its decision.
The December decision will be subsequently discussed at the Jan. 10 advisory board meeting, which may be a big party -- or an angry meeting reminiscent of what happened the last time the Navy said it would tear down the hangar.
There will "either be lots of cake or lots of rope," joked RAB co-chair Bob Moss.
The Navy may have already given it away: At a recent RAB meeting, Newton leaned over and told Moss, "We're going to have the official response back in a month or two and I think you'll be happy with it," Moss recalls.
Nevertheless, Moss said, "It's very hard to read what they are going to do."
Newton's predecessor, Rick Weissenborn, told the RAB earlier this year that a decision had to be made by the summer. A temporary coating is peeling off the hangar's toxic siding which, when combined with winter rains, could be a recipe for increased runoff of toxic PCBs.
The delayed announcement "may mean they are going to demolish it and they don't care about sealing it," Moss said. "Or it may mean they can't make up their minds."
The Navy was initially supposed to release the decision earlier this year in the spring, but has rescheduled the announcement numerous times. "Every time they give us a date, it slips," Moss said.
Meanwhile, the Save Hangar One Committee, a group dedicated to preserving the hangar, has had success in presenting an alternative to the toxic siding.
In particular, the group's architect, Linda Ellis, has been educating the public on a Teflon fiberglass covering that could serve as a new siding. However, the Navy won't let her inside the hangar to confirm once and for whether the idea would work.
At the RAB meeting earlier this month, Navy spokesman Newton said it was the Navy's position that the public is not allowed onto the site. But while the Navy is responsible for cleaning up the site, it is NASA that now owns the hangar.
Several government officials have been allowed inside. Wayne Donaldson, director of the State Historic Preservation Office, recently visited the hangar and said he was "more determined than ever" to save it.
The current campaign to re-skin the hangar hinges on its feasibility. The committee has gathered 1,500 signatures in support of the fabric covering.
"You have to see what the inside of hangar looks like before you can intelligently make a decision" as to how the fabric will work, Moss said. "I'm not convinced that we know that it will."
The revised environmental evaluation and cost analysis will lay out several options for the hangar, telling the complete story behind whatever position taken by the Navy. Last year its costs were disputed because the estimates for demolition and restoration differed substantially from NASA's, whose numbers made restoration seem much more feasible.
More information is available at www.savehangarone.org.
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