01/23/14 — Group sets sights on BRAC

View Archive

Group sets sights on BRAC

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 23, 2014 1:46 PM

Wayne County was successful in leading the campaign to secure state legislation protecting North Carolina's military bases, including Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, from the threat posed by giant windmill farms, members of the Friends of Seymour Johnson told Wayne County commissioners Tuesday.

But that fight also took the county's eyes off other threats, especially the next round of base closings and realignments, Friends members Ben Seegars and Henry Smith said.

That could put the county at risk of losing the $1.5 million a day economic impact the base has on the county's economy, Seegars said.

The county cannot afford to lower its guard since word is already out that the community around a Florida Air Force Base might be planning "to make a play" for Seymour Johnson's tankers, he said.

To help refocus attention on those threats, the Seymour Support Council has been revived as Friends of Seymour and is planning to hire The Cassidy Group, a Washington, D.C. lobbying firm. The firm also represents supporters of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point.

Tuesday commissioners and the Goldsboro City Council, in separate actions, agreed to provide $59,585 each to the Friends of Seymour Johnson for that contract.

The funding will pay for the period of Feb. 1 through June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. An additional $150,000 from the city and county would be needed to cover fiscal year 2014-15.

Over the next five months the funding will include:

* $5,210 to pay Jimmie Edmundson for communications and continuity between the lobbyist, city, county, state, Military Affairs Committee and base

* $31,250 to pay The Cassidy Group

* $15,000 to retain McGuire Woods as a lobbyist in Raleigh

* $8,125 for various MAC expenses including clerical and administrative costs, special events and other events and trips as needed.

The group also is planning to appeal to the public to raise between $50,000 to $100,000, Seegars said.

Seegars said a group of people has been meeting over the past eight months and interviewed lobbying firms. The funding request is the result of those meetings, he said.

The group included Commissioners Steve Keen and John Bell, County Manager Lee Smith, City Councilmen Chuck Allen and Bill Broadway, City Manager Scott Stevens, Edmundson, Seegars and Henry Smith.

The funding proposal had not been on the commissioners' agenda, but was added during the briefing session Tuesday morning.

"I think several of us know more about windmills than we ever wanted to," Seegars told commissioners. "We have worked very well as a partnership, the county, the city and the MAC. I think we did an outstanding job on addressing the windmills, but the caveat to that is that it has taken our eyes off the ball a little bit as it pertains to preparing for the next BRAC. We are expecting one fully in 2017."

Communities around other bases already have been partnering with consultants, while other communities had never let consultants from previous BRACs go, Seegars said.

"So we do feel like we are a little bit behind," he said. "We depleted our war chest, so to speak (in the windmill issue).

"While we believe that we are all good -- that Seymour Johnson is a great base, has high-performance standards and excellent people -- we need to protect ourselves, not so much from the threats that we see today, but from people who are going to be making political plays behind the scenes to come after us."

That is the reason for the proposal, he said.

Commissioners were unanimous in their support for the proposal, as was the City Council.

"I think it's important to stay abreast of this issue," Stevens said.

"We need somebody down there in place everyday," Allen said. "We've got to do this to stay in the game. We have to do this to keep Seymour Johnson in the game."

"If we do this we may not see a lot of results, but if we don't do it we'll definitely see some results," Councilman Gene Aycock said.

"Seymour Johnson is the economic engine for Goldsboro and Wayne County and we have to make sure we do anything we can to keep it," Mayor Al King said.