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Population growth predicted at Fort Sill

Updated:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A population increase of 10,445 people is expected by 2011 at Fort Sill, according to base officials.

Though the latest numbers related to Fort Sill and the Base Realignment and Closure are subject to change, Col. John Uberti said the latest projections include soldiers, relatives and civilian employees.

``This is what we know, what we don't know, and what we think we know,'' Uberti said.

The first influx of soldiers will begin in June when 1,000 Basic Officer Leadership Course students arrive.

But the major increases will begin in July 2009 when the U.S. Army Air Defense School from Fort Bliss, Texas, arrives. By then, Fort Sill will have nearly doubled its military student population to 8,529.

Behind the scenes dozens of military and civilian employees are working daily with local and state officials on infrastructure issues, Uberti said.

Health care needs, for instance, are projected to increase by 18 percent, touching cities from Oklahoma City to Wichita Falls, Texas. By 2011, military officials estimate an additional 1,913 students will arrive.

None of the projections include the accompanying nonmilitary population likely to follow.

``The impact is going to be significant,'' said Court Newkirk, economic development director for the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. ``It's going to be like dropping another community on us.''

Lawton City Manager Larry Mitchell believes the area will need $70 million to $75 million in additional infrastructure, including streets and schools.

An abundance of variables will likely leave military and local officials rewriting plans for the next several years.

``You can never foresee the changes,'' Uberti said. ``We are just able to work with what we have, and believe me, we are in constant communication with those off the post.

``I would say there is a certain level of anxiety that goes with this. But a lot of people are working very hard every day to prepare for these changes.''
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