Chamber Optimistic About BRAC News - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/25/05

Chamber Optimistic About BRAC News

You know the military is big business around here, and the latest round of base closures had lots of people worried. But there's some good news. An independent panel upheld the Pentagon's recommendations that all of the bases in the Coastal Empire and Low Country will remain open. But it reversed its decision to add to one of our bases.

When the panel made its decision, it wasn't exactly a surprise for this area, but it was still a relief. Four bases in Georgia will close, but none of them are anywhere near here.

"We've still got to pay attention with the Air Force," said Trip Tollison with the Savannah Area Chamber of Commerce. "If they do any deliberations with the Air Guard as it pertains to the 165th, we still need to focus on that the next couple days, but for the most part, we can open the bottle of champagne."

The only disappointment for southeast Georgia is that BRAC isn't claiming a Connecticut submarine base. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay near St. Mary's stood to gain thousands of jobs from the Connecticut base.

"It's kind of like dangling candy in front of a baby," said Tollison. "You get the news the Pentagon wants to close New London and move all the assets to Kings Bay, and Kings Bay was excited. But today was a huge blow to Camden County."

Panel members say the decisions they make aren't easy.

"We know that the decisions we reach will have a significant impact on the communities hosting our military installations, and more important on the people that bring those communities to life," said BRAC Commission chairman Anthony Principi.

Tollison says Wednesday's decisions mean no one can completely rest easy. This wasn't the first BRAC and won't be the last. "This is a temporary stay if you will, for which the Army is doing for the future of our area."

Tollison says yesterday's decisions are tributes to the time, money and effort put in by groups like the Chamber of Commerce in Savannah and the Military Enhancement Committee in Beaufort.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com

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