In search of a straight answer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We’re not surprised that the latest twist in the disturbing saga over the relocation of an outlying airfield has come to this:

A representative speaking for Gov. Tim Kaine has said that last week’s rejection by the Board of Supervisors of the four Southampton County sites would not necessarily remove the county from the list of proposals.

Those latest comments contradict, we believe, previous assurances that the Navy and state officials — and, by extension, the governor himself — did not want to strong-arm the county into accepting landing field sites to be used by Navy pilots for jet training, specifically for landings and take-offs.

In a specially called meeting, the county’s supervisors swiftly and unanimously opposed the inclusion of four Southampton sites among 10 potential locations in Virginia for an airstrip that would support practice aircraft carrier landings for fighter jets.

The board &uot;… hereby goes on record in opposition to development of an outlying landing field in Southampton County,&uot; states the resolution supervisors passed.

That sounded direct enough: The county wanted no part of the practice landing fields and wanted any further consideration to be halted.

Board members were not alone in believing their vote was sufficient grounds to remove the county sites from consideration.

But the sites, apparently, still remain on the list of possible airfields under consideration.

We think.

Robert P. Crouch Jr., assistant to the governor for commonwealth preparedness, dodged the issue, saying only, &uot;I will bring this to the governor’s immediate attention and will keep you posted on next steps here,&uot; according to a story circulated by the Associated Press.

This utterly transparent change of heart confuses us, which is not shocking in this complicated and oftentimes secretive matter that has both mobilized and riveted county residents this summer.

As a quick recap, the Office for Commonwealth Preparedness in July announced sites located in the state under study to build the airstrip. Four of those sites involve land located in Southampton County. The decision to recommend the 10 sites was made, apparently, in closed-door sessions in Richmond. The announcement surprised not only the public, but local officials as well.

Then, in what appeared to be an attempt to quell anxiety over both the abruptness of the decision and the heavy-handed manner in which it was made public, Crouch told an audience at Southampton High School that &uot;The governor is not going to compel uninterested communities into negotiations with the Navy.&uot;

The supervisors apparently took Crouch at his word. We just don’t understand which word is correct.