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October 14, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, October 14, 2005

Hope springs eternal for Hangar One Hope springs eternal for Hangar One (October 14, 2005)

Navy, NASA and solar interests could conspire to save Moffett landmark

By Jon Wiener

The future of Hangar One just got a lot brighter. Navy lawyers have decided that money set aside for the Moffett Field cleanup could be used to restore the Moffett Field landmark, according to Navy clean-up manager Rick Weissenborn.

Coupled with funding from NASA, the Navy money could play a large role in saving the hangar from demolition. It may even prove enough to restore the building without a solar power investor.

Wednesday, officials from the Navy, which once owned the building, told the Voice that they had reversed their earlier position that they could spend clean-up funds on only that -- cleaning up the PCBs and other toxins contained in the hangar's siding -- and not on restoration. But new Base Realignment and Closure director John Hill questioned that policy, referring it to legal staff, which told clean-up officials of its decision last week.

Weissenborn said in an interview that the effort would not be constrained by budget concerns.

"Whatever it takes we will find," said Weissenborn. "We're not letting budget drive [our decision]. We're looking at the effectiveness and the implementability more than the cost."

The Navy has been holding off on its analysis of 13 different options for cleaning up the contamination -- which include demolishing the hangar, covering it with some kind of protective coating, treating the polluted stormwater that emanates from it, and stripping the siding and cleaning the steel frame -- until after hearing from its lawyers. Weissenborn said the Navy will release its report and recommendation in early to mid-December, with public hearings coming in January or February.

Keeping the hangar standing rather than demolishing it could save NASA, the current property owner, millions. That's because the steam-heating system and electrical wiring for much of the 2,200-acre former Naval base are routed through Hangar One. Tearing the building down could force NASA to spend an untold sum rebuilding the system, though the agency would likely to try to get the Navy to pay for that as well.

"It was the integral focal point of the original construction of the base," said Carl Honaker, the last executive officer at Moffett Field and now a member of the Save Hangar One Committee (SHOC). "It won't be cheap," he added.

SHOC member Jeff Segall, who recently got the city council to pass a resolution in support of the group, said he would rather see NASA spend the money on restoration rather than "wasting" it in on rebuilding destroyed infrastructure.

Honaker and Segall said their group cannot lobby congressional representatives in earnest until they have seen the Navy's report.

"It's kind of hard to ask for money when you don't know how much to ask for," said Honaker.

On the solar front, Friday is NASA's deadline for solar power companies to submit proposals to replace at least part of the siding. Six companies attended a site tour in early September. NASA officials have said that they would recommend that the Navy demolish the hangar if they can't find a solar company or someone else to help cover the cost of re-siding it.

E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]

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