Saturday, July 5, 2008

More on the Army Reserve Training Center

This from a resident of the Freeman Road area, and a member of the group which protested, effectively the siting of the Army Reserve Training Center in Maromas. The Army Corps of Engineers now plans to build the center in Westfield on Boardman Lane. This resident asked to remain anonymous.

Here are the thoughts of this resident:

The Army needs to consolidate its Reserve and National Guard Training Centers in Connecticut as recommended by 2005 the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Instead of the many scattered small installations, which inspired the old National Guard slogan "your hometown Army", the Army now considers that a few large facilities will better serve their needs.

The site of the new Armed Forces Reserve Center by BRAC 2005 decree must be in Middletown. The City was aware of the Army's intention but did not react as quickly and openly as it might have. Most citizens were completely unaware of the Army's need for a new AFRC here; although the closure of the Army's old Mile Lane facility was well known. The choice of the Army's first preferred site in a meadow on Freeman Road was not well planned. The publicity surrounding that choice brought the issue to a wider audience. The large size of the facility along with the constraint that it be located in a small central Connecticut town has caused serious problems. There are few sites in Middletown that meet the Army's needs. The Town Planner and the City Council could find only two alternate sites to recommend. The criteria for selecting these two sites further emphasized the difficulty the City will be forced to accept on account of the demand that only Middletown be considered. No matter what criteria are employed, the size of the Army's facility is difficult to accommodate in Middletown.

Do we want to destroy rapidly vanishing open space, make unnecessary sewer extensions into rural areas, encourage urban sprawl, develop and endanger lands in the Connecticut River watershed or shall we diminish our tax base by giving up land in valuable, revenue-producing industrial zones? All of these alternatives are unattractive solutions. Unfortunately, Middletown will be compelled to agree to a difficult choice among bad alternatives.

Despite the best intentions of everyone concerned,

A good solution to this problem is impossible today on account of the past poor planning of the BRAC 2005 Commission. A large regional consolidation deserves a state-wide regional site search. With a regional search the Army would have found the best site, the site they deserve in order to be ready in the event of attack or catastrophe, rather than an acceptable site within Middletown.
There is nothing like a crisis to precipitate change.

I remain hopeful that this crisis will be a learning experience, one that will usher in smart growth and planning for the future and signal the end of repeating the poor planning of the past.

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