From left to right: Lars Wagner, the project manager for Perini Construction, Vice Admiral Charles Ray, the commander of Coast Guard Pacific, U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Captain Jeffrey Westling, the commander of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, participate in the groundbreaking for new housing on the Coast Guard base in Kodiak. Brianna Gibbs/Photo
During a well-timed break in the rain yesterday, dozens of Coast Guardsmen, civilians, politicians and construction workers gathered at large grassy field on base. The area is the site of future Coast Guard housing, and yesterday’s gathering was the groundbreaking for the 18-month project. The end result will be 20, three-bedroom houses in the form of 10 duplexes. KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs was at yesterday’s groundbreaking and filed this report.
It was a moment almost two decades in the making — the ceremonial groundbreaking for the $19 million housing project. Prior to grabbing a shovel, Captain Jeffrey Westling, the commander of Coast Guard Base Kodiak, addressed about three dozen attendees about the importance of this project.
“Base Kodiak has sustained a housing inventory shortage which has been documented in various housing assessments and studies conducted over the past two decades. With consistent occupancy of base housing at or near 99 percent, and limited three bedroom housing units available for rent on the local economy the construction of these new housing units is crucial for taking care of our families and maintaining front line operational readiness.”
Joining Capt. Westling with a shovel was U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who made the trip from Washington D.C. to partake in the ceremony. Murkowski said the groundbreaking should send a clear message to Coast Guard Base Kodiak about how important it truly is.
“By committing to new housing at a time when our budgets are tight back in the congress. Our budgets are tight for the Coast Guard – for all departments. So the commitment that is being made to our Coast Guard men and women and their families here in this place at this time is something that should not be viewed as a nice to have. This is a commitment going forward to a region that is becoming increasingly important. As we see the arctic opening, as we see the Coast Guard mission expanding northward and recognizing the significance of where we are on this island. It should keep all of you really very focused on what it is that we have ahead of us – the opportunities and the challenges.”
Vice Admiral Charles Ray, the commander of Coast Guard Pacific also held a shovel during the groundbreaking and echoed Murkowski’s sentiments about the significance of this housing project.
“There won’t be another new anything that approaches this in the Coast Guard in the next two or three years . This is the most important place to build a house for Coast Guard men and women and this is where we’re building it. We’ll repair some places in other places, but we’re not going to build anything new like here. So this really signifies how important it is.”)
Prior to the groundbreaking, Ray looked out to the large grass field of potential and took a moment to recognize the memories that will be made in that spot.
“Two years from now there will be little kids with their back packs walking around here to go to Peterson. There will be families driving up here with pick up trucks having caught their first salmon ever. This is a place where memories and families will be made. And I’m confident that we’re going to have some great housing here – it’s going to be energy efficient – it’s a great place to be, not a bad view either.”
Also taking part in the shoveling was Lars Wagner, the project manager for Perini Construction, the primary contractor for the housing project.