Council Reviews Draft Letter Regarding Disapproval of F-35 Beddown at BIA

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Thursday June 07, 2012

At the June 4th meeting, the City Council reviewed a draft letter to the US Air Force regarding their disapproval of the proposed F-35 beddown at Burlington International Airport. 

Vice Chair Helen Riehle noted the City Council needs to be more concerned about the environmental impact of the proposed F-35 beddown. According to Riehle, there has been an emphasis on the economic perspective, but noted that their job is to concentrate on the environmental questions. A careful review of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) shows that “it’s incumbent among the City Council to look at that as a very important role,” Riehle said.

“We need to make the statements, raise the questions and get the answers about the environmental impact, because if we don’t do it, who will?” Riehle said. “If we don’t say the study [Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)] is flawed—the data, the baselines, there are so many discrepancies or concerns—I can’t say to South Burlington, ‘Well, don’t worry about the environment.’”

The F-35 issue is also being discussed at other municipal meetings in the area. Council Chair Rosanne Greco noted that at a recent Winooski City Council meeting, a (Winooski) resident announced that he had found mathematical errors in percentages published in the draft EIS.

Additionally, during a Burlington City Council meeting, a Council member addressed one of the points made by the Vermont National Guard about not flying on Sundays for respect for religious purposes: challenging the idea that everyone worships on a Sunday.

In regard to lingering questions raised during the May 21 City Council meeting, Councilor Paul Engels said that he doesn’t feel the Council needs to wait for a response from the Vermont National Guard.

Greco spoke with Air Force Representative Nick Germanos who told her that all questions and comments submitted to him regarding the F-35 beddown are read, but because of the high volume, not everyone will receive a response before June 20. However, if a significant new concern is identified, they might pause the decision process. The final EIS is expected to be completed in August—just around the corner.

“It’s probably being written now,” Greco said.

Germanos expressed to Greco that he had never received as many comments as have been generated by the Burlington basing proposal.

Councilor Pam Mackenzie, who does not oppose the beddown, referred to the City of Winooski’s resolution, suggesting that South Burlington use the same language in their response letter.  “They [Winooski] did a very good job of taking the task of being moderate and really being sincere to work with the federal government, as well as with the state government, as well as with the national guard in moving forward,” Mackenzie said.

Establishing communication with the congressional delegation and neighbors is important because whatever the final decision is, either way “we need assistance,” Councilor Sandra Dooley said.

Council is hoping to receive the data points and geographic coordinates necessary to have the affected areas mapped, and to view the specifics of an updated and accurate noise contour band.

The Council discussed a proposal to have a joint meeting with other municipalities affected by the F-35 decision—Burlington, Winooski, Williston, and Colchester. The SB City Council was open to the idea of sharing their letter to the Air Force with other area City Councils and Select Boards.

Greco will incorporate all of the input, revisions and suggestions into the draft letter and have the final version available for approval at the next Council meeting.

The postmark deadline for submitting opinions and/or feedback to the Air Force is June 20: Attn: Mr. Nicholas Germanos, HQ ACC/A7PS, 129 Andrews St., Suite 332, Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent