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FAIRBANKS, ALASKA — North Pole officials predict dire consequences if an Air Force squadron moves to Anchorage: rampant unemployment, school closures and hundreds of empty homes.
North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward says the proposed move of the F-16 Aggressor Squadron from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage would bring “unacceptable” changes to the community, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
More than 100 people protested the move at a meeting where the Air Force allowed the last round of public comments on an Environmental Impact Statement that foresees similarly dismal results for the community if the squadron moves.
“The draft (impact statement) declares overall impacts would be ‘discernible,’” Ward said. “From where I’m standing, the impacts would be far greater than ‘discernible,’ especially in North Pole. Our military families are facing daunting economic hardships.”
The move would save about $227 million.
Air Force officials say the comments will be incorporated into a final report due out before the end of the year. The report, along with a separate report, will be used to make the final decision.
The audience was often vocal, shouting support and clapping for speakers. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, drew such when she told Air Force officials that she saw nothing good in the report for North Pole or Anchorage, where there are not enough schools and concerns about loud jets.
“When you’re up there reading, I’m sitting back here saying you just made the case for us,” she said. “There is nothing positive in there. I think you maybe need to read it and let it digest.”
An owner of an auto business said nearly 40 percent of his business was because of the military and any cuts could result in layoffs.
Lawrence Chapin, a local 20-year Air Force veteran, questioned the greater costs of the move.
“We are talking about moving Air Force assets, service members, families, building new processes and either building or modifying buildings,” Chapin said, “all while potentially demolishing buildings here, schools, careers and lives, and all of this comes at a cost, financial and much, much more.”