Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Costs of Navy's Return to Cecil Field Are Still Cloudy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Costs of Navy's Return to Cecil Field Are Still Cloudy

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

The six-month reprieve given to Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia this week -- as tentative as it may be -- is a good thing.

The delay will give us time to do what should have been done all along -- get community input on whether it's in the best interest of Jacksonville for the Navy to return a master jet base to Cecil Field.

This deal has been a rush job from the beginning with the train being driven by Gov. Jeb Bush, who, by the way, doesn't live in Jacksonville and if he did wouldn't live on the Westside.

Now we can step back and carefully examine all of the issues involved.

The Mayor's Office told me Thursday that process will get started next week with a town hall meeting to hear from the people who would be the most affected by reopening Cecil Field -- the area's residents and businesses.

Mayoral spokeswoman Susie Wiles said it's also likely that a commission will be appointed to hear and address any concerns.

"We want to make sure that whatever is done is a benefit to everyone in the community," Wiles said.

There certainly are concerns.

One is noise and how the roar from the jets would affect quality of life, not only in new neighborhoods in the Westside that have sprung up since Cecil closed in 1999 but also in surrounding counties that would be in the flight path for training flights.

And there's no reason for this to be a theoretical discussion with the usual illustration that the noise would be equivalent to a vacuum cleaner. Bring in some of the larger, noisier Super Hornets and have them take off and land just as they would in training exercises so that officials and residents would know exactly what they would be facing if the jets blasted by every couple of minutes.

There's also the question of money.

We need an exact accounting of just how much taxpayer money has already gone into converting Cecil Field into Cecil Commerce Center, as well as how much taxpayer money has been spent on incentives to bring companies there that would have to be relocated. …

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