Navy hearings to hit home

Published 5:54 pm Sunday, April 1, 2007

By By NIKIE MAYO, News Editor
The Navy has held four of the original six public hearings on its latest outlying landing field impact study, but this week presents speaking opportunities to the residents who stand to be most impacted by a site decision.
On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, the Navy will host public hearings in the Site C area, its preferred choice for a place to train military pilots from Virginia Beach, Va., and Havelock. The first hearing will be held at Beaufort County Community College in Washington and the second will be held at the Vernon James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth. Both hearings are preceded by information sessions that start at 4:30 p.m., during which the public can ask questions of about 30 people who have been involved in the impact-study process. The public hearings are scheduled to run from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Residents who attend either of those two gatherings will likely hear the introduction of Navy Capt. Daniel O’Toole, the military judge who has presided over previous hearings. Those were held in Hyde, Bertie, Perquimans and Craven counties.
And North Carolinians Opposed to the Outlying Landing Field, the group that has been denouncing Site C for years, is prepared to offer plenty of concerns.
But members of NO-OLF aren’t the only ones questioning the Site C choice. In recent days, politicians from both the state and national levels, including Gov. Mike Easley, have spoken out against the spot.
Some politicians, like U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, are simply reiterating the position they’ve had for years.
Others, like Republican Congressman Walter Jones, are more recently “out in front” to say Site C, in Jones’ words, is “not the best choice.”
Those views are supported by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Dale Hall, who says a practice field near the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge will be in “direct conflict” with the mission of his agency.
And there are too many variables in the refuge-OLF equation, according to the FWS.
These hearings will likely present one element more strongly than any other hearing has — not just opposition, but people.
Pantego resident Rex Lefever says he’s used to coexisting with tundra swans.