Moon post exchange move to expand, stabilize operations
Lou Butterworth likes his haircuts the way he's been getting them for decades — quick and frill-free.
Since the 1970s, the 81-year-old retired Army colonel normally has visited the barber shop at the post exchange, which is a department store for active and retired service members and their dependents, at a base in Collier. The few times the Baldwin resident has tried commercial barber shops elsewhere, he is stumped by barbers asking what type of blade he would prefer they use to cut his hair.
“I say I just want it cut the way the Army cuts it,” he said.
Next year's relocation of the post exchange and the commissary, which is a grocery store, from a mostly closed Army base, the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility, to new buildings near military installations in and near Moon will be more than an end of an era for Butterworth, who doesn't plan to make the longer drive to Moon.
The relocation of the retail establishments, which will share a wall in their new digs, to the McGarity Army Reserve Center in Moon also could signal a new era for stabilizing and expanding military operations in and near Moon, officials said. The area is home to the Army Reserve's 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, the Air Force Reserve's 911th Airlift Wing and the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 171st Air Refueling Wing. A 29,999-square-foot Navy Operational Support Center is being built on the 911th's Air Reserve Station for the center's relocation from North Versailles.
“It's a much needed and welcome addition. ... It's the hub of our military district,” said Brian Schill, spokesman for the Military Affairs Coalition of Western Pennsylvania and a retired lieutenant colonel from the 171st.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service expects to award construction bids by Monday, said Christopher Ward, spokesman for the Dallas-based agency. Groundbreaking on the 11,000-square-foot, $4.3 million post exchange project will start in September. The work should be finished by summer, Ward said.
It will include department, liquor and convenience stores, a barbershop and a military clothing store.
Groundbreaking for the 43,000-square-foot commissary, which will be five times bigger than the one in Collier, took place in August 2012. The $15.2 million facility is scheduled to open in spring 2014.
The Kelly base is being closed as a result of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission process.
It makes sense for the two stores in Collier to be moved because of the new site's proximity to the Parkway West. About 168,000 people are eligible to use the services within a 100-mile range, said retired Air Force Col. J.L. Kintigh, chairman of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Job Retention and Military Service. Furthermore, the existing Collier post exchange and commissary are inefficient and outdated, officials said.
For the military, the relocation will mean more people traveling in from out of state, but not just to shop, Kintigh said.
“They do shop for the purpose of saving money, there's no doubt about that. … They (also) do come for the sake of being with their military comrades,” he said.
Having the new facilities together also adds stability to the military units, said U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair.
When the Air Force announced last year that it planned to close the 911th as a cost-cutting measure, politicians and community groups cited the commissary under construction as a reason to keep the 911th, Murphy said. The Air Force decided to keep the base open at least until October 2014.
The military bases in the Moon area account for $250 million to $300 million in annual economic impact, and potential for growth exists in what could be called “a joint forces area,” when the Navy center opens, Murphy said.
For Moon, growth is good, but the existing military operations and service members shouldn't be overlooked, township Manager Jeanne Creese said.
“They eat at our restaurants. They shop at our stores. Many of them are involved in our communities,” she said.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.