BRAC Hearing in Utah Canceled

BRAC Hearing in Utah Canceled

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- The Base Realignment and Closure commission's regional hearing in Utah Monday has been canceled, but a few of the commissioners still will visit Hill Air Force Base and fly over the Utah Test and Training Range.

"The reality is nothing is lost by not having a regional hearing," said Jamie Gallagher, a Washington lobbyist for Utah's military installations. "Instead of being in a hearing room, the Salt Palace or wherever, the commission will spend the vast majority of their time at Hill or in the air touring the Utah Test and Training Range. It's a lot better to see things in person than to look at PowerPoints (computer presentations)."

Utah's military installations qualified for a hearing, but because they would lose only 400 jobs under the Pentagon recommendations, local leaders were willing to live with that rather than open up the installations to further review.

The Utah Defense Alliance, a nonprofit group that has been heading the state's effort to prevent closure of the local military installations, was happy with the change in schedule.

"We're not at all chagrined by the news that it's been canceled," Vickie McCall, UDA president, told the Standard-Examiner of Ogden. "Although we wish we weren't losing any jobs, we came out of this really strong and feel like our approach should be quiet and behind the scenes. We feel like we don't need a formal hearing."

"From my perspective, it's far better to have the commission spend their time seeing what we have than it is to spend time in a hearing, listening to us," said Rick Mayfield, UDA executive director.

In lieu of the hearing, the two or three BRAC commissioners who come to Utah will have an extended site visit, including a helicopter view of the Utah Test and Training Range.

BRAC Commissioner and former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, was concerned about losing the opportunity for public comment.

"The regional hearings aren't nearly as important as the site visits because you cover the same stuff and you get to see first hand and you have the report there," he said. "But I have some concerns. I would want the public to have an opportunity to express themselves if they desire. But it's pretty technical and not many people are (as) interested in that as they are in a Wal-Mart moving in."

The cancellation of the regional meetings mans supporters of Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho will need to find another venue if they want to have a hearing on the base's proposed loss of an F-15 fighter wing.

"Mountain Home, if they want to be included in a regional hearing, the commission will invite them," Mayfield said. "Portland is as close as Salt Lake."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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