First District Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, told a packed Long County Courthouse on Tuesday that he would take concerns over the Townsend Bombing Range expansion directly to Gov. Nathan Deal.
During a Long County Commission meeting, Carter said he also would be willing to take a delegation from the county with him when he went to the governor’s office.
Carter said he dealt with a similar issue while mayor of Pooler with the dock expansion several years ago. He said that, fortunately, the expansion created jobs. But in Long County, there would be no jobs created from the range expansion and the county also would annually lose tax revenue.
The senator said the expansion couldn’t fall only on the backs of Long and McIntosh counties, and being in opposition to the plan does not mean the people do not support the military. Carter said the best weapon the people have is to stay focused and unified.
“Don’t think that your voice isn’t heard. It is always heard,” he said.
Several people spoke out against the expansion, and none seemed more adamant than local businessman Danny Norman. He said the expansion of the range not only affects him, but also affects the other 15,000 people living in the county. He said that when all of the proposed land is taken, the county will have lost more than 70,000 acres either to the federal or state government.
Norman said that in addition to the county annually losing around $140,000, the quality of life would be impacted by the estimated 4,200 flight missions that would take place every year. Many of these flights would be as low as 100 feet from the ground, he said.
“We are going to continue to pay for someone else’s benefitting … I don’t know about you, but I’m not prepared to take this as a done deal,” Norman said.
Several other citizens commented from the floor. One person said that the government already owns an estimated 650 million acres in the United States, and that training flights could take place in some of those areas where they would not hurt a local community. Another person said the military is misleading the governor and other officials by claiming that Long County would benefit from the expansion.
Commission Vice Chair Kent Hall said that of the land being used for the expansion, 75 percent of it would be taken from Long County. He added that the expansion already had been approved, and that the commissioners were told that three-fourths of the land would be purchased from the 2014 federal budget, and the remaining one-fourth would be bought from the 2016 budget. Hall said both the county and the board of education would be hit with a loss of about $70,000 every year, which doesn’t even include anticipated losses from timber revenue.
Chairman Robert Long said the commission agreed with everything that had been said, and that they have written letters, attended meetings and done everything they could to stop the project. But he agreed that the last hope is for all of the people in the county to unite and voice their opposition.
Commissioner Dwight Gordon said the commission needed everybody to come together, and then if the project did go through, perhaps the county could be financially compensated for its loss.
The commissioners voted to approve a resolution opposing the expansion project. They said a copy of the resolution would be sent to officials in Washington, Atlanta and the McIntosh County Commission.