Four representatives from the Townsend Bombing Range expansion project spoke Jan. 4 to members of the Long County Commission.
Alice Howard, the Marine Corps Air Station community plans and liaison director, said that since the project’s comment period was reopened, the base had received more than 100 comments on the proposal. She also said the project and its impacts are still being studied. A preliminary draft likely will be published in either October or November.
Five expansion proposals are being considered and none have been singled out as having a higher probability of being chosen. Howard said there will be multiple recommendations when the drafts are released and they will be prioritized. When it comes to implementing recommendations, project officials are considering biological, environmental, cultural and financial impacts, as well as operational capabilities at the base.
Commission Chairman Bobby Walker said all of those factors are important, but regarding Long County, the financial situation is what he and the other commissioners are most concerned with.
Walker said he has written several letters about the possible financial impacts on the county and “everyone from the Department of Defense and down has responded,” he said.
Long Count resident Pryce Chapman asked the panel whether PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds might be used to compensate the county for damages. According to Howard, Marine Corps attorneys are considering the option but she did not know whether the county will receive any money. When the draft is recommended later this year, possible PILT funding and all other matters will be covered, Howard said. Even after the draft is released, there will be additional opportunities for the public to offer input on those recommendations. A final decision won’t be made until at least a year after that.
Howard said she and the others from the base will be visiting Long County regularly to answer residents’ questions about the proposed expansion. She also invited residents to call her at 843-228-7558 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In other business:
• Commissioners heard a request from Recreation Department Director Michelle Crowley for a new bunker and field vehicle. According to Crowley, the vehicle is used to drag and maintain the baseball fields. The department’s current vehicle has had several problems and is worn out. She said a new one would cost around $10,000 if the county trades in the vehicle it owns now.
• Commissioner David Richardson asked about putting a recreation park in the county’s Sand Hill area. Walker agreed that the issue needs to be addressed and a decision should be made.
• Commissioners voted to re-elect Walker as the chairman and hire Jay Swindell as the county attorney for the upcoming year.