IOW, Navy open dialog

Published 8:38 am Friday, January 7, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Thursday to continue talks with the Navy regarding the use of Franklin Municipal Airport for “touch-and-go” training for turboprop aircraft stationed in Norfolk.

The vote was taken after a presentation from Cmdr. Matt Baker, during which he said the Navy should have included Isle of Wight in early discussions about airport use.

“We initially started talking with the city of Franklin as the owners, in hindsight — which is always 20/20 — we recognize that we should have come to Isle of Wight at the same time,” he said. “We didn’t. We can’t make up for that; but we’re here now.”

Baker said an environmental assessment is currently underway to identify possible positive and negative effects of the training at the airport, which is owned by Franklin but located in Isle of Wight. Officials expect the assessment to be completed in April, he said.

Once the assessment is complete, negotiations can begin for services, Baker said.

“If we never talk to each other, nobody will benefit, but if we do talk to each other there is potential for all of us to benefit,” he said.

In October, the Navy announced its intention to negotiate for the use of the Franklin airport for touch-and-go exercises for E-2 and C-2 turboprop aircraft. When the Navy deeded the airport to Franklin in the 1940s, it retained the right to come back and use it.

In November, the Isle of Wight supervisors voted unanimously in opposition to the use of the airport for the training exercises. Newport District Supervisor Stan Clark said last month he voted in opposition to get the Navy’s attention so it would begin talks with the county.

“I think we’re all interested in renewing that dialogue and talking with you,” Clark told Baker.

Several residents from the southern end of the county — and some from Franklin — told the board they still oppose the plan because of noise, safety and economic concerns and were met with loud applause from the crowded audience.

“I want to clear one thing up,” said Carrsville resident Daryl Butler, who spoke in opposition of the plan. “Not a person standing here tonight is against the Navy or any of our military institutions in this country.”

Residents also spoke in support of the plan. Hardy District resident Herb DeGroft took issue with one speaker’s implication that the United States was not currently at war.

“There are people with turbans around their heads, wearing flowing robes that would kill everybody in this room right now if they could, but thank God for those men and women who would do violence to our enemies in the dead of night to keep them from eradicating us,” DeGroft said. “If you could, I’d have you put that field in my front yard.”