Hagan…‘OLF is not an option’

Published 10:45 am Thursday, March 12, 2009

CAMDEN – It’s always nice to have powerful allies in powerful places.

As Gates County officials and citizens continue their battle in preventing the U.S. Navy from possibly building an aircraft practice facility in the Sand Banks region of the county, they do have a friend in U.S. Senator Kay R. Hagan (D-NC).

On Friday, Hagan visited the region to hold a roundtable discussion with residents, community leaders and concerned citizens to discuss their opposition to an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in northeastern North Carolina.

Hagan, who has long been opposed to the OLF, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the proposed OLF sites.

The meeting was held at the Camden County Courthouse and attended by nearly 50 individuals, including Gates County Commissioners Kenneth Jernigan and Graham Twine along with Gates County Manager Toby Chappell.

“I came to Camden County today so I can hear your stories and take them back to Washington with me and explain to my colleagues why placing the OLF here is just not an option,” Hagan said. “Locating the OLF here will not only impact your quality of life, but will also reduce your home values and prevent further economic growth and prosperity. This is not about you being inconvenienced. This is about your way of life and your livelihood being threatened.”

Hagan was joined in the roundtable discussion by seven residents of Camden and Gates counties who have been active in their efforts to prevent the Navy from locating the OLF in northeastern North Carolina.

“She heard what we had to say; everybody talked about something different, the things unique to their area that would be affected if the OLF comes,” Commissioner Jernigan said.

From Gates County’s side of the issue, Jernigan said the discussion centered on the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens; the beauty of the Chowan River; and treasured family values.

“I feel it was a real learning lesson for her,” Jernigan said. “I feel she is on our side in this issue. I’m sure she’s looking at the entire picture, including if the OLF is really needed or is it a noise mitigation issue from Virginia Beach.”

“Ultimately, I do not believe that the placement of an Outlying Landing Field here should take precedent over the interests of citizens in Gates, Camden and other surrounding counties,” said Hagan. “This is a position I’ve held for quite some time and the viewpoints I’ve heard here today only reinforce my opposition. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the delegation to ensure the OLF is not located in these peoples’ backyards.”

Navy officials are studying five possible sites for the OLF. In addition to Gates and Camden counties, the Navy has a trio of southeastern Virginia (Southampton, Sussex and Surry counties) on their short list.

At last week’s meeting, the Gates County Commissioners reinforced their opposition to the OLF by approving a resolution. Included in the wording was, “Northeast North Carolina would not recognize any benefits from an OLF and would only receive detrimental impacts on our citizens should an OLF be located in the region.”

In a related issue, Commissioner Jernigan urged board chairman Henry Jordan to write a letter to North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue asking for OLF opposition and to urge the governor come to Gates County and hear the public’s concerns.

“She (Perdue) needs to get in line with the opposition shown by our other elected leaders,” Jernigan said. “She needs to come to Gates County, not Camden County, and hear our concerns.”

Jernigan made the motion for such letter to be written. The measure passed without opposition.