LUDOWICI — Seventy-five Long County residents attended a Marine Corps public meeting Thursday in Ludowici City Hall to discuss the proposed expansion of the Townsend Bombing Range.
Information on the possible plan was disseminated, and comments on the draft environmental impact statement were accepted.
Five stations were set up to provide information on public involvement, the range’s history and mission, the purpose of the proposed expansion, a resource analysis on the proposed expansion and real-estate-acquisition possibilities. In addition to the information posts, a station for recording comment and submitting written opinions was available.
Most attendees’ comments indicated a general perception that the land acquisition for the project will have a negative financial impact on Long County and, as a result, the county should be compensated.
“Unfortunately, I think that this plan is going to go through,” meeting attendee Robert Long said. “But if it does, there has to be a way that this lost revenue is provided back to the county.”
According to Marine Corps realty specialist Amy Kock, Long County stands to lose anywhere from $53,572 to $172, 007 annually. However, if the preferred option is approved, the impact would be $131,318 per year. Long County Tax Assessor Beverly Johnson said the figure is pretty close to her estimate.
One possible way to continue providing revenue to Long County, Kock said, is for the Marine Corps to manage and harvest the timber land that would be acquired if the plan is passed. That way, 40 percent of the timber-management profits would go to the state and the money could be rerouted back to Long and McIntosh counties — if the Legislature designates it for that purpose.
However, Johnson pointed out, much of the land under consideration already is being harvested.
Base forester Tim Money said there’s no way to know how much timber will be left on the land by the time it is acquired, but whatever is there will be harvested and managed.
Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was unable to attend the meeting but did make a comment.
“I urge the military to work closely with elected officials and listen to the citizens’ concerns. It shouldn’t come down to the public choosing between supporting the military and potentially risking their future prosperity,” Kingston said.
Regarding the possibility of earmarking the timber-management funds for Long County, Kingston representative Brooke Childress said the congressman is looking into the option.