Nothing positive will come out of Navy’s presence

Published 8:53 am Wednesday, January 5, 2011

by Ames Herbert

The decision regarding the Navy’s use of the Franklin airport is rapidly becoming a very ugly community-divider, the pros versus the cons.

I have read the letters and editorials provided by our citizens and neighbors, and it seems to me that no one has really addressed what is really at stake. As far as I can determine, there will be essentially no benefit to Franklin economically or socially.

With no demonstrated positive aspects, how can this be viewed as anything but yet another setback for the community in terms of “digging out” of the downturn created by the mill closing?

For example, if the rebuilding of Franklin would come at least in part from those seeking a quiet, clean and safe rural community for retirement, then the acceptance of the Navy’s airport expansion would negate these unique and attractive attributes. In addition, the constant noise disruption could be a final “deal-breaker” for those in the balance as to where they may decide to remain.

As a family whose home would be directly under the flight pattern, I see this as a huge potential deterioration of quality of life. Who wants to sit outdoors in the evenings under constant noise?

And, as I witnessed in the last flight demonstration, the planes would fly directly over the high school, YMCA and hospital — three communities that will also see a deterioration of quality, not to mention the safety issues.

I attended the first flyover demonstration at the airfield. The noise was not so bad and seemed appropriate for an airfield.

For the second flight demo, I stayed at home, went outside and walked the neighborhood. The noise was bad, and you could hear and feel the vibrations even indoors. Do you want this as a constant feature of the “new” Franklin?

With all due respect to those who have served in defense of our nation and who continue to do so, should we blindly accept the argument that our community make whatever sacrifice is needed to support our military? This is certainly a credible position especially given the radical unpredictability of those that want to see the United States brought to its knees.

But, as I understand it, the Franklin airport is only one of about eight options the Navy was considering and likely not the cheapest to renovate (is the airport in Emporia in better condition?) and not the safest in terms of collateral impact; isn’t the Melfa site on the Eastern Shore in a much less populated area?

In fact, I understand that both of these sites were (and would still be) in favor of having the Navy join them. So questioning that Franklin embrace this plan is not a case of lack of patriotism, but a case of deciding among several options which one is the best for both the Navy and the local community that will be impacted.

I also feel that this whole process seems to be moving too quickly and without adequate opportunity for input from the community. We need a series of open hearings or question-and-answer sessions.

We need more information and time to process the many pros and cons. Can our community actually have any influence on this decision, or is it the “done deal” according to the historical agreements we are hearing about?

This is an extremely serious decision for this community that will impact it forever. Do the benefits to our security as a nation offset the drawbacks? Is this the cheapest and safest place for this venture, over and above the seven or so other site options?

We’d better be certain about the answers to these questions. There is an awful lot at stake.

AMES HEBERT has lived in Franklin since 1988 and is an agricultural entomologist for Virginia Tech at the Tidewater Ag Research and Extension Center in Suffolk. He can be reached at