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Fort Detrick gate closing amid budgetary concerns

Monday - 4/1/2013, 6:00am  ET

Employees at Fort Detrick will have one less gate by which to access the post starting April 1, according to changes announced Monday.

The post is closing Opossumtown Gate, a small access area off Opossumtown Pike. The closure is expected to save as much as $10,000 weekly, post spokeswoman Lanessa Hill said.

Hill said the change is not the result of sequestration but because of other financial issues. A hiring freeze at the post's garrison has meant short staffing at the post's four gates.

"Long hours have fatigued our staff," Hill wrote in an email, adding that guards have been on leave restriction for the past year.

"We are doing this because current budget constraints have created understaffing situations, many security guards on post have been working over 60 hours per week in order to maintain a safe and secure installation," Hill wrote in an email Monday.

Hill said she didn't know how many guards worked at the post. About 10,000 vehicles come to Detrick daily, but Hill said she didn't know how many used Opossumtown Gate.

As many as 12,000 people work at Detrick, which also houses offices and research centers for the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and many other federal agencies.

The post is also slashing weekend access to the post through Veterans Gate, at Seventh Street and Military Road. It will now be open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to people who have valid Department of Defense identification. The changes do not affect either the Rosemont or Old Farm gates. Old Farm Gate, off Rosemont Avenue, will remain the post's only 24-hour access point and is Detrick's only gate for visitors without federal identification.

The post is constructing a new gate off Opossumtown Pike, near Nallin Pond Farm. Employees could be seen working at the site Monday through chain-link fencing around the post. Roads have been cut, some fencing has been constructed and a small building was also under construction. The $10.75 million project is set to open next year to help streamline access at the post and is expected to become the only entry for visitors and deliveries, Hill said.