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TOOELE AREA TO SEE ARMY BOUNTY

The city may see the real-estate transaction to beat all real-estate transactions.

Tooele is getting a $114 million truck-refurbishing facility absolutely free. It can then turn around and sell it, perhaps immediately, for millions of dollars.It's a little more complicated and risky than that, but Tooele city officials are cautiously optimistic that they are about to make a bundle.

Tooele Army Depot officials confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. Army has signed a conveyance agreement, transferring the huge Consolidated Maintenance Facility into the city's hands - provided the city can find a tenant or buyer for the property within 90 days.

An agreement that would transfer a total of 1,700 acres of warehouses, maintenance shops and other property in the depot's North Area, also identified as surplus property by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, is in the works. It could be signed in the near future, according to Marsha Fetzer, a spokeswoman for the Governor's Defense Conversion Team.

But the prize the city was after was the Consolidated Maintenance Facility, which the Army built for $110 million just before ordering the base closed.

A city negotiating team is now trying to hammer out a deal with Detroit Diesel, one of the nation's three largest diesel-engine manufacturing firms, which is keenly interested in leasing or buying the facility. If an agreement cannot be reached within 90 days, the city has the option to give the facility back to the Army.

"I hope and pray this is going to go because it could be a definite boon to Tooele County," David Faddis, chairman of the Tooele City Council, said Wednesday.

Faddis, the only council member who voted against the city's acquisition of the Army property, said the city could stand to make millions of dollars, depending on how much Detroit Diesel agrees to pay for the facility.

Councilman John Cluff said the city has proposed a business plan for revitalizing and selling the entire 1,700 acres to private industry, ensuring a healthy tax base for the city for years to come. The city only needs about $10 million to $12 million to carry out that 10-year plan, Cluff said, and plans to collect that money through the sale or lease of the Consolidated Maintenance Facility. If the city can get more than $12 million, the rest "is gravy," Cluff said.

Faddis, for one, doesn't see why that gravy can't amount to tens of millions of dollars. Cluff is slightly less optimistic.

"It's a great thing that's happened to the city, or can be if it's managed properly," Cluff said. "There's always waiting in the wings that risk of something going sour and having it be a burden on the citizens, but I think the further we go" the less likely that scenario becomes.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said he is surprised but pleased that the Army would turn over for no money the Consolidated Maintenance Facility, a high-tech facility built to fix trucks and weapons systems. He said Tooele officials told him private use of the facility could create between 2,000 and 3,000 jobs.

Hansen said that while Utah's congressional delegation has worked hard to keep pressure on the Army to move the deal quickly, he said most of the credit for the deal should go to Tooele officials who worked hard on reuse plans.

"Clearing federal title gives them marketing advantages that obviously didn't exist before," said Bob Lockwood, a military affairs aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

"Now the burden is on the local people to successfully market it," Lockwood said, noting that finding users for the facilities is among conditions of the transfer.