A mood shift against OLF

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The mood of the fight against the Navy’s attempt to build an Outlying Landing Field here took a somber turn Monday night.

Slowly but surely — and to the chagrin of the many vocal opponents to the field being located in Southampton County, some talk of concession by the county supervisors is started to creep into the conversation.

Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald West said that in spite of the protest that can be mustered against the plan, the Navy may still control the upper hand.

“My real feeling,” he told a group of about 200 who turned out for a board meeting, “is that, whether we want this or not, it will come.”

Added Franklin District Supervisor Walter L. Young Jr., “I think we see the handwriting on the wall.”

Regardless of one’s position on the OLF site, it was made clear Monday that opposition groups have a long road to hoe trying to keep the Navy from building a training field where it wants. If that site includes using property within Southampton or land close enough to it that the jet planes will still create plenty of noise, it probably can do so.

County Administrator Michael Johnson said: “This will be a drawn-out, gut-wrenching, emotional roller-coaster ride that won’t end anytime soon.”

The Navy’s environmental studies of the two Southampton sites, as well as one on the Surry/Prince George line and two in North Carolina, will take at least two years, plenty of time for opponents to rally against the sites selected.

But the tone of Monday’s meeting showed a crack in the heretofore united front put up by the supervisors in previous meetings.