Committees Will Investigate Aspects of Reopening Cecil; Military Affairs Group's Chief Wants All Appropriate Questions Answered

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Byline: GREGORY RICHARDS

The Jacksonville City Council established four subcommittees last week to investigate issues surrounding the possible return of a Navy jet base to Cecil Field on the Westside.

Councilman Lad Daniels, chairman of the council's Military Affairs Committee, said the groups will focus on land use, military operations, economic development and community initiatives. They are all comprised of two council members.

Among the issues to be examined, Daniels said:

-- Land-use group: The development that has occurred around Cecil Field since the military left in 1999 and what is planned.

-- Military operations group: The impact of jet noise, among other topics.

-- Economic development group: How many businesses jet bases attract.

-- Community initiatives group: What other communities have done to reduce the impact of jet bases on neighborhoods, such as soundproofing or tax breaks.

"We want to make sure that in the public's mind we've asked all the questions that are appropriate to ask related to an economic development deal of this magnitude," Daniels said.

Meeting times and locations for the subcommittees have not yet been established, but those groups will report back to the Military Affairs Committee, which will meet every other Tuesday at 2 p.m. in Council Chamber in City Hall, beginning this week. Daniels said he expects the groups to wrap up their work by early November.

The council committees will work closely with the separate 17-member panel established by Mayor John Peyton to also explore potential improvements and side effects to the Navy jets' return.

JOBS REMAIN SAFE

No city workers will lose their jobs because of cutbacks in the city's proposed $887 million budget after all.

Peyton suggested eliminating 171 positions from the city's nearly 8,000-person payroll in the budget he unveiled in July. While some of those positions were vacant, others were filled. They ranged across all city departments, such as public works and parks.

But Susie Wiles, Peyton's spokeswoman, said Friday that those in positions being eliminated were moved into other, vacant positions on the city payroll.

"Our first priority was to save money, and that was accomplished," she said. "Our second priority was to minimally impact the government. I would say that we more than succeeded in that regard."

Wiles said Friday she did not know how much money was saved by trimming the positions. …