Neal announces $42M for new hangar at Westover
CHICOPEE — U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, has announced more than $42 million in funding for a new aircraft maintenance hangar at Westover Air Reserve Base.
“I’ve worked on this for a long time,” said Neal.
The money was announced at an event Thursday at Westover with Neal, Brig. Gen. Scott Durham, Col. David Post, and Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos. Durham serves as the commander of the base.
The $42.6 million in funding is for a maintenance hangar for C-5 aircraft that is set to be completed in a few years time. The hangar will be the size of two football fields.
“It’s a great strategic win,” said Durham.
C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft have regularly scheduled maintenance done at Westover already, one of only two such bases that do such maintenance on the massive aircraft.
“Maintainers work out in all kinds of weather,” said Post. “The addition of a hangar is going to be extremely appreciated.”
Neal said he believes that the project was the largest approved for Westover in some time. However, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee also noted the large amount of money that has been brought to the base, as well as Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, over time.
“We’ve brought back hundreds of millions of dollars for these two bases, between Westover and Barnes,” said Neal.
He also praised those who run the base.
“They’ve been terrific advocates for the military, but also for the economics of the Valley,” he said.
Neal touted the importance of Westover strategically, saying there was no more important air base on the East Coast than Westover.
“During Operation Desert Storm, this was ground zero,” he said. “Time and again it’s proved how important it is.”
The congressman also pointed to the importance of the base economically.
“The commercial side of Westover is an economic generator,” said Neal. “We need to remind people frequently of just how important this base is.”
Westover’s economic importance was also conveyed by Kos, a lifelong resident of the city.
“Westover means a lot of jobs,” said Kos.
Neal said that the national defense bill that contained the money for the new hangar was approved months ago. However, he said that the decision was made to not officially announce the funding while the government was shut down.
“I just thought it was not a good idea to try to explain why we were doing this and not doing other things,” he said.
Neal also said he expects that a deal for funding the federal government will be reached.
“That, by the way, is the Congress I signed up for a long time ago. You negotiate,” said Neal. “If you walk in and you walk out and your position is unchanged, it’s not much of a negotiation.”
Currently, the government is being funded on a temporary basis into February.