Cannon to receive stimulus money

Cannon Connections photo: Argen Duncan Two-year-olds at the Cannon Air Force Base Child Development Center, from left, Jacob Clines, Natasha Cotton and Kaira Morgan, play under the care of program technician Norma Alonso.

By Argen Duncan: Cannon Connections

$26.4 million in federal stimulus money is going into improving the quality of life and utilities at Cannon Air Force Base.

The Recovery and Reinvestment Act earmarks $12 million for a new Child Development Center, $12.7 million for infrastructure improvements and $1.7 million for work in housing, said Lt. Col. Mark Brown, deputy commander of the Special Operations Mission Support group.

Brown said the projects would put the base ahead of schedule on quality-of-life plans and mission-related construction, as well as providing a little boost to the local economy. Stimulus money needs to be spent quickly, so the projects will start this year, he said.

Airman and Family Services flight chief Denise Vanderwarker said the newly funded Child Development Center would replace the on-base center and bring the number of children served there to 158, more than double the current capacity.

“We asked for this money for this purpose because it’s a quality-of-life issue for our airmen,” Brown said.

With the special forces population at the base, personnel often deploy or work around the clock. With the new center, Brown continued, at least they wouldn’t have to worry about where their children would go.

Vanderwarker said the new center would go across from the base hospital and have about the same hours as the current one, 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Families must have military affiliations for their children to use the center.

As for the housing money, Brown said it would go to new wooden privacy fences in Chavez Manor West and new smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

“When our folks are back from deployment and spending quality family time, we want them to be comfortable, we want them to be safe, we want them to be pleased with the housing we offer them,” he said.

Capt. Mae-Li Allison of Cannon Public Affairs said the housing improvements would be done in eight months.

The infrastructure improvements involve work on water, sewer and electric systems and some roof repairs. Brown has two reasons for the efforts.

“One would be we are expanding significantly on base, and the infrastructure is not quite sufficient to support the new construction,” he said. “And then the infrastructure we have is getting rather old.”

Brown said the stimulus money allows for improvements that would have been “down the road a ways.” He said the infrastructure work would allow the mission-related construction to finish more quickly.

“It’s kind of like laying the groundwork ahead of time,” Brown said.

The work also affects the surrounding communities.

Vanderwarker said she was hoping to recruit staff from Clovis and Portales. With the project contracts, Brown said, the communities would see more workers, revenue and jobs.