Proposed city-Navy agreement made public

Published 5:05 pm Wednesday, January 26, 2011

FRANKLIN—The City of Franklin would receive $700,000 to $1 million annually from the Navy to host pilot training at Franklin Municipal Airport, according to terms of a proposed agreement made public by the city Wednesday.

(Click on the gray box above to read the proposed agreement.)

The document was drafted by Navy attorneys and forwarded to the city last Friday evening. The document sets in motion negotiations between the City Council and Navy for the hosting of practice landings by pilots of turboprop aircraft that transport cargo and personnel to carriers at sea.

The city has 30 days to review the preliminary draft and propose changes. Under the agreement, the city would be paid up to $1 million per year to provide services to the Navy. The document does not estimate the city’s cost of providing those services.

Under the draft agreement, the city would:

■ Be responsible for all upkeep and maintenance of the airport

■ Have at least two firefighters on duty at the airport during Navy operations, as well as a truck that can put out 1,000 gallons of water per minute

■ Be responsible for keeping the runway clean and intact

The Navy would conduct up to 20,000 “Field Carrier Landing Practice” passes, or FCLPs, annually, operating 15 to 20 days per month, or up to 200 days per year, for 10 to 12 months. On average, the Navy would conduct 100 passes per day in three-hour increments.

No more than three planes would fly at a time.

The airport would be closed to all other aviation during Navy exercises. Night operations would begin 30 minutes after sunset, with a “goal” of finishing by 10 p.m. Operations could not run past 11:59 p.m.

According to a press release by the city Wednesday afternoon, the proposed agreement was distributed to Franklin City Council members Monday and shared with Isle of Wight County officials Tuesday morning.

The City Council met in closed session Monday night to discuss an undisclosed “public contract.” Mayor Jim Councill and other council members declined comment after the 45-minute closed-door session.

In an earlier open meeting Monday night, concerned citizens criticized the proposed partnership with the Navy, telling council members that noise from the planes would hurt quality of life for Franklin and southern Isle of Wight County residents and have a negative economic impact on the region.

According to the city’s press release, the proposed agreement “is not a contract.” Rather, “it is an outline of services that the Navy expects to need from the City of Franklin. It also includes a proposed method of operation for the touch and go. There may be additional items added to the statement as discussions occur in the future.”

The press release also said that city officials “will work in conjunction with Isle of Wight to plan and put in place a public meeting which will focus on the draft PWS and other matters related to the proposed Navy program for the Franklin City Airport.”

Navy officials, after saying last spring they would field proposals from qualified airfields throughout the region, announced in the fall that they were negotiating directly with Franklin because of a World War II-era deed granting the Navy access to Franklin Municipal Airport.