The Department of the Navy on Friday released information officially confirming the expansion of Townsend Bombing Range in Long County. Confident the announcement was coming, the Long County Commission on Thursday held a town-hall meeting at Long County Middle School to discuss the expansion’s effects on the county.
Vice Chairman Kent Hall told the crowd of about 20 that the county will lose approximately 28,000 acres from the tax digest, resulting in an annual revenue loss of about $140,000 for the commission and the board of education.
Despite the financial setback, Hall said the commission has received no indication that mitigation funds will be provided. Long officials were told the county could receive a new building — possibly a fire station — but furnishing, equipping and staffing the station would be the county’s responsibility. After weighing the costs, Hall said officials determined the county couldn’t afford the building.
The county needs financial assistance, not an empty building, the vice chairman said. Initially, commissioners were given a “take it or leave it” offer on the building, but that since has changed, and Long County now has three years to accept or decline the structure. Regarding the offer, Hall said he and the other commissioners feel Long County is not being treated fairly.
“They’re getting the house and we’re getting the septic tank,” he said.
Commissioner Gerald Blocker defended the representatives from the Marine Corp Air Station in Beaufort, S.C., saying they did all they could to help Long County, but that their hands were tied by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
“The Marine Corps has done all that it could within their guidelines … to get more. The changes have got to come from Washington, and they’re not making that happen,” Blocker said.
Hall said U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston previously met with the commission and expressed a desire to help, but so far, the county only has been offered an empty building.
“I feel like we have been let down by Kingston,” Commissioner Dwight Gordon said.
The MCASB news release states that the decision to expand the bombing range was reached after careful consideration of the purpose and need for action. The base reportedly gathered information from federal, state and local agencies before approval was given, and officials said the Marine Corps remains committed to working with neighbors and stakeholders around the range.