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Fort Riley hopes to strengthen relationship with community

By Bryan Richardson

The commander of Fort Riley’s garrison told county commissioners Thursday that military police officers are discussing instituting a ride-along program with the Riley County Police Department.

“Obviously when soldiers see senior leaders out and about, that can help deter potential actions that may happen,” said Col. William Clark, the post’s garrison commander. Military police aren’t permitted to actually patrol off post.

RCPD Captain Kurt Moldrup said implementing preventive measures with the military is similar to RCPD’s work with K-State athletics. “Coaches will get involved when we think we see a problem occurring and have a little more impact,” he said, implying that it would be similar for soldiers and their officers.

County commissioner Karen McCulloh said she notices when a soldier from Ft. Riley is mentioned in the arrest report. She said it’s important to have a more formal relationship between the fort and RCPD to help the situation. “We want you to come and enjoy your time here, and we don’t want to hassle people,” she said.

The number of soldiers and their families continues to grow as Ft. Riley returns its “full nest,” meaning the major units are back from deployment. Clark said the base takes care of around 55,000 people on weekdays, including soldiers, families, civilians and retirees.

He said there has been an eight percent increase in families at Ft. Riley since August. There are around 1,500 families living off-base with the majority within a 30-minute radius from the fort.

Clark said the financial impact of Ft. Riley on the Flint Hills region will remain at slightly less than $2 billion for the next two fiscal years. “Past fiscal year 2014, I can’t tell you what that looks like right now,” he said.

Clark said his number one concern at the moment is the roads leading to the base. He said there’s a “significant traffic challenge” along I-70 at the fort’s exit. (See related article.) Beyond that, he said the continued construction on K-18 “is a concern for us.”

Even with population growth, there will be some financial cuts as the federal government imposed spending cuts to defense. “As we all know, the Army is in a state of change,” Clark said.

He said his budget has been reduced by 18 percent from last year. Also, he said 16 percent of civilian workers and 10 percent of contracts need to be cut this fiscal year. Clark said the $1.6 billion in construction from the last base realignment in 2006 will be completed when the hospital is finished in 2014.

“Between now and 2018, military construction on Ft. Riley will be significantly reduced from what we’ve seen in the past five years,” he said.

Clark said it’s important for Ft. Riley and the community to work together as a way to combat the new fiscal reality. “There’s probably some smart ways that you guys are doing business that we need to take a look at,” he said.

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