Opponents of Navy training unpersuaded by dollars

Published 10:17 am Saturday, January 29, 2011


FRANKLIN—Two City Council members said Friday that the $700,000 to $1 million annually Franklin stands to receive for hosting Navy pilot training will not change the minds of those opposed.

“It’s just a number; we don’t know what that entails,” Ward 2 Councilman Benny Burgess said. “I was disappointed it wasn’t higher.”

City officials Wednesday released a draft “Performance Work Statement” detailing what services the city would be expected to provide for the Navy if it uses Franklin Municipal Airport for practice touch-and-go landings of turboprop aircraft. The Navy in turn would pay the city $700,000 to $1 million annually, according to the document.

Ward 6 Councilman Don Blythe said he wants to know more about how the money would be spent.

“I’d like to see exactly where all the money is going,” Blythe said.

Most of the money received would be used for operations and maintenance at the airport, and the city wouldn’t gain much revenue, Burgess said.

Under the terms of the document, the city would be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the airport, including keeping the runway clean and intact. The city also would provide fire protection during the flight training, which would happen up to 200 days a year. Up to three planes would fly for three hours at a time.

“How I understand it will work is that all the money will be paid to reimburse the services provided by the airport,” Burgess said. The city “is going to gain some money, just not a significant amount.”

He said the majority of citizens with whom he has discussed the Navy’s proposal are opposed to it, and the money received will not change their opinions.

“The economic benefits are just not enough to sway from the loss that we’re going to experience,” he said.

Citizens opposed to the Navy project filled the council’s chambers during Monday night’s City Council meeting. Several spoke during “Citizens Time,” complaining about the noise the planes would make over residential areas and the potentially harmful effects on property values and economic development.

Rick Ivey lives at 1000 N. High St., in an area he calls “ground zero” of the proposed flight path.

“There is a widespread misperception that the $700,000 to $1,000,000 is somehow ‘profit’ when it is direct reimbursement for services rendered,” Ivey said in an e-mail Friday. “While it is interesting to finally get the proposal in hand, it does nothing to alter my opinion that the Navy’s use of the airfield is inconsistent with any positive vision for the community.”

He said there’s nothing the Navy could offer to change his opinion on the matter. He said he doesn’t think the agreement is a positive step for the area because of the negative effects it would have on property values and quality of life.

“The mayor (Jim Councill) is quoted as saying, ‘Our quality of life is not for sale,’ ” Ivey said. “If that is the case, why would we continue to negotiate a price?”

Blythe said he will make his decision based on what the people he is representing want.

“Right now, I’m getting a very negative response,” he said.

Blythe and Burgess said they have talked to a few citizens in favor of the Navy partnership.

“Most of (the proponents) say that we should support it because the Navy needs someplace to go, and they support trying to help the Navy,” Burgess said.

Blythe said the people he spoke with who favor the proposal said Franklin needs the money, and they think hosting the training will bring jobs to the area.

Money is not the only thing to be considered in deciding whether to host the Navy’s pilot training, Blythe said.

“You can’t look at it for money value; you got to look at the benefit for the people,” he said.