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Cuomo highlights importance of Fort Drum in State of the State

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Early on in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address, he took a few moments to  thank  the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division. The soldiers received  the longest applause and the only standing ovation during his speech.

"The 10th Mountain Division is the most deployed force since 9-11. Just think about that -- 323 soldiers have been lost by the 10th Mountain Division defending our freedom," said the governor.

Cuomo called Fort Drum  a great North Country asset.

He pledged to spend $1.5 million for 13,000 acres of land around the base.  An additional $25 million will go toward improvements around Route 26.

 As Fort Drum has grown over the years, its needed more land for training. That includes land  around the army base that acts as a buffer from houses and farms. Carl McLaughlin, head of the Fort Drum Regional Liason Organization, says Cuomo's promised  $1.5 million will allow the base to purchase the development rights to this land.

"What it simply means is you purchase development rights so you're not going to encroach on the training ranges of Fort Drum," said McLaughlin

He says its a vital program for protecting the land around Fort Drum.  

Cuomo also promised $25 million for improvements around Route 26. It's a  state road that runs right through the army base between Carthage and Evans Mills.

"It's always a transportation bottleneck, " McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin says the money will help square the  intersection at the base's main entrance and ease traffic.  

He says the money will also pay for an overpass  or under pass to connect the two parts of the base that Route 26 now bisects.

McLaughlin says Cuomo's support is no surprise. These projects have been planned for some time.  He says, what  Cuomo is really saying by mentioning Fort Drum in the State of the State address is that Fort Drum needs to be recognize by the entire state of New York. 

"Let's recognize the opportunity to do this in support of Fort Drum especially while the army is going through this downsizing process. Make sure people are aware about how much New York appreciates Fort Drums What the governor is saying is, 'folks recognize that Fort Drum and wants to work with them...' that's what the governor is really saying," McLaughlin said.