By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - On the corner of 68th Street and Warehouse Road, a metal claw collided with a building, shattering glass and splintering wood.
As dust filled the air, the hard hat-wearing crowd cheered to celebrate the demolition of the first of many World War II-era structures Monday.
Garrison Commander Col. Mark Freitag took the controls of the machinery first, swinging the claw into the side of a building that just six months ago housed administrative offices.
"Victory," said Freitag, describing his emotions while kicking off the demolition. "It took us a long time to get here."
The Department of Public Works received funding through the Army's Facility Reduction Program to destroy 43 of the wooden structures built on Fort Hood and North Fort Hood during the 1940s.
Freitag said he estimated demolition will take between 90 and 120 days to make way for family housing.
"When they were built in World War II, it was thought that they would be temporary and then the force would draw down and they wouldn't have a need for them," said Freitag.
Instead, the buildings have remained in use for 70 years, serving a variety of needs that included office and storage space. "It costs us twice as much to fix them, and heating and cooling them can waste a lot of money," said Freitag.
Brian Dosa, director of public works, said officials are doing everything possible to salvage recyclable and reusable materials from the debris.
"We took the metal out. It went into scrap metal and we were able to sell that as part of our recycle program and then generate funds that go back into the community at Fort Hood," said Dosa.
Some materials were hazardous due to lead-based paint and asbestos, and NCM Demolition and Remediation, a California-based company, was selected by Fort Hood to ensure the demolition is done correctly and safely. This is one of 14 military installations the company is doing work on.
There are about 75 wooden buildings on Fort Hood totaling 1 million square feet slotted for demolition.
Public works is planning to put family housing in the newly freed space, near the construction site of the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
Freitag said he planned for the housing to make Fort Hood a more accessible and walkable community, but construction is a good five to 10 years in the future. The first new construction to replace the buildings will be the groundbreaking for the new main exchange on Clear Creek Road.
Dosa said the community might also see more retail shops and restaurants to match the Chili's that opened last year.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.