Keep Navy talks transparent

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 31, 2010

Given the Navy’s deeded access to Franklin Municipal Airport, city officials might well be powerless on the question of whether the airport is ultimately used for pilots of turboprop planes to practice touch-and-go landings.

The City Council can play a vital role, however, in ensuring that discussions with the Navy are transparent and that citizens are thoroughly informed about the Navy’s intentions and how the city and its citizens would be affected.

Here are a few questions that need a public airing by the council:

* How would property values — and, in turn, the city’s tax base — be affected, if at all, by Navy planes buzzing neighborhoods on the city’s prosperous north side?

* Would it be good, bad or neutral for the city’s business climate?

* Would it affect future economic-development efforts and job recruitment?

* Do the financial benefits promised by the Navy outweigh any potential negative impact on the city?

These questions need to be asked in public forums. The City Council should invite input from Realtors, Chamber of Commerce representatives, business owners and economic developers — and give citizens the opportunity to ask questions of council members and other stakeholders besides the Navy.

The council also should hold a joint meeting with the Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors, which was ostracized in early discussions about the Navy’s plan and has gone on record in opposition. Franklin would be wise not to alienate its neighboring locality, which has been a good partner for the city on several fronts in recent years.

This kind of transparency should happen before the City Council signs a Memorandum of Understanding with the Navy.

Even if the outcome is inevitable, the citizens of Franklin and Isle of Wight can go into the Navy partnership with eyes wide open about how their community will be affected.