Who#8217;s still on the OLF list?

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 6, 2007

FRANKLIN—The governor’s office refused on Friday to formally commit to removing Southampton County sites from a list of proposed locations for a practice landing strip for Navy jet pilots.

Referring to Robert P. Crouch Jr. as Gov. Tim Kaine’s “point man” on the OLF site-selection process, Kaine Press Secretary Kevin Hall declined to answer questions or provide a statement from the governor regarding Southampton’s repudiation of a proposal to locate an outlying landing field in the county.

“When you speak to Bob Crouch, you ARE speaking to the governor’s office,” Hall wrote in an email response to a phone message Friday afternoon.

On Thursday, Crouch was unwilling to commit to removing four proposed county sites from a list of 10 that the governor had presented to the Navy in July. He said his Office of Commonwealth Preparedness would continue to gather information, including preliminary environmental studies, about the sites in the five counties.

“Our process, from the commonwealth’s perspective, will be to continue to gather information,” he said.

That information, along with details about the perceived levels of support in each of the communities, will be passed along to the Navy before the service’s Sept. 15 deadline, he said.

“What form (the state’s reply) will be in has not yet been determined,” Crouch said.

Southampton County Administrator Michael Johnson said Friday he is “not alarmed yet” at the state’s response to Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors vote to ask that Southampton be removed from the list of potential Virginia hosts for the Navy’s auxiliary landing field.

“I don’t think Mr. Crouch is the person who can say” when the county would be removed from the list, he said.

Johnson sent a letter to the governor on Thursday, informing him of the vote and of county citizens’ fervent opposition to the proposal.

Referring to a Board of Supervisors’ informational session with Crouch last month, he wrote, “I’m sure that Mr. Crouch informed you that the mere suggestion of an OLF in Southampton County drew immediate and substantial opposition from many of our residents.”

He related that, following a tour of Naval Air Station Oceana and a briefing by Navy officials, Wednesday’s special meeting had been called, and supervisors had unanimously adopted their resolution.

“They are convinced that additional information or discussion would not change their decision, and that the earlier their decision is communicated, the better for all parties involved,” he wrote.

Johnson added that the Navy had indicated it would cease evaluating any site that was removed from consideration by the governor’s office.

“Accordingly,” he wrote, “I have been directed to respectfully seek your immediate consideration in removing and withdrawing (the four) sites … from further evaluation or consideration by the Navy.”

Johnson said Friday that the county had acted “in good faith” in the process and noted that he expects the governor’s office to do the same.