Sandwich Selectmen, War Vet and Senator Moran ring the bell on the range | Sandwich news
Several members of the Sandwich Board of Selectmen raised concerns about the proposed Army National Guard firing range at Joint Base Cape Cod in a controversial discussion last week.
Board member David J. Sampson started the conversation at the board meeting on Thursday, June 17 saying he thinks the selectmen should take a formal position on the project. He said other select boards have done it and given the amount of publicity the line has received, it’s time for Sandwich to do the same.
He said the lineup is of great concern to the residents of Sandwich and to himself, especially with regard to the poor job base managers who have educated the public and city boards on the project.
Mr Sampson pointed to a 30-minute video posted on YouTube intended to educate the public.
He said the process has been rushed and steered in a direction that will give the base what it is looking for: the construction of the shooting range.
“I don’t know of any large groups of people who support this,” he said.
In addition, Mr. Sampson referred to the email sent by the Executive Director of Joint Base Cape Cod, Brigadier-General Christopher M. Faux to Christopher Adams, Co-Chair of the Military-Civilian Community Council, on June 1, in which he stated that he would recommend the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard to conditional imprisonment for training military personnel on the base over the summer due to lack of local support for the range.
The letter would recommend that base employees “spend money on the other side of the bridge; showing the community the direct impact of losing their job.
This proposal was rejected by the adjutant general.
Mr Sampson said he had since spoken with Wendy Northcross, CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, to see if anyone had called to apologize.
Mr. Sampson also expressed concern about the environmental impacts of the base in terms of water protection.
He said his position was not about politics, his feelings about guns or supporting the military.
“This is a discussion of how this could potentially impact our community,” he said.
President Michael Miller disagreed with Mr. Sampson’s position on the issue. He was the only selectman to express his explicit support for the machine gun line.
Mr Miller said he and General Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham were invited to the base for a 90-minute briefing because base officials wanted to make sure all information about the project was released. .
He said several noise studies had been done since 2015. For one of the studies, attackers were told this was going to happen and they were asked to inform the base of any noise they heard during tests. Further testing was done without letting the abusers know they were going to happen.
No complaints were recorded as a result of any of the studies, Miller said, but the proposed range has always been moved 1,000 meters away from residential areas, just in case.
Environmental studies – which have been reviewed by independent non-military agencies – have also been carried out, he said.
Rubber catch basins on each firing range collect the bullets. These outlets are cleaned every few years.
“The idea that the bullets are going to impact the water is just not a fact,” Miller said.
The base also has areas where no one is allowed to shoot a gun to ensure bullets do not escape from the base. Therefore, shooting at Forestdale School is not an option, Miller said.
Concerns about clearcutting trees to accommodate the range are also unfounded as the base donates 260 acres of trees to the Frances A. Crane Wildlife Management Area, he said, which appeased agencies involved in environmental studies.
Mr. Sampson asked why the board was hearing this information from Mr. Miller rather than directly from base officials.
“They should spend their time sending this information out and convincing people of it, rather than making threats to the general public,” he said, again referring to the general’s email.
Mr. Miller said he agreed that the email was not acceptable. However, he said he didn’t see how the general’s idea of how to punish businesses and local residents had anything to do with the project having been properly approved.
Selectman Robert George said he read some time ago that the National Guard attended a meeting of the Bourne Board of Selectmen.
“At that point I thought to myself, it’s in Sandwich and they never came to introduce it to us,” he said. “It left me with a bad taste in my mouth.”
Selectman Shane Hoctor said base officials admitted they misinformed the public about the machine gun range.
He also spoke of a retired Coast Guard commander who insisted on telling him about the email.
“In his eyes, and mine too, it’s insulting to every person on the base who trains,” he said of being essentially quarantined on the base and being ordered to spend your money elsewhere.
Mr. George wondered what the hours of operation of the machine gun range would be and whether training would take place after 10 p.m. He said he lived on Service Road and could hear gunfire from the base this late and had never heard anything about what time the practices would take place.
He specifically noted his concern about the impact on children from surrounding neighborhoods who might have disrupted bedtime.
Mr Miller reiterated that no one complained about noise when these studies were done for the past six years.
Mr. Hoctor asked if it would be possible to invite grassroots representatives to speak at a future meeting. Mr Dunham said he would check with his contacts at the base.
Mr Dunham said that if the audience could see the same presentation that he and Mr Miller had seen, it would answer a lot of the questions people have.
Mr Sampson said he asked if he could attend this presentation and was told it was limited to one selected board member and one general manager per city.
Mr. George suggested that the auditorium at Sandwich High School be used for the presentation, so that the public would have ample opportunity to attend. Mr. Sampson suggested that the auditorium would be ideal because the town hall is too small.
Mr Hoctor said that after the public relations debacle that was the general’s email, he would expect base officials to welcome the opportunity to provide the public with better information.
Selectman Charles Holden said he needed more information before deciding on the project.
“I don’t want to base a decision on a bad choice of words by a base general,” he said. “Or sensational reporting and concerns that might be less valid if they published studies.”
No formal decision has been taken on approving a board statement regarding the machine gun range, and no date has been proposed for a base leadership presentation.
The selectmen are far from the only ones to question the base range recently.
During the public forum segment of last week’s elected officials meeting, Vietnam War veteran Frederick S. Lane said he strongly opposed the project.
“The reason given for offering the range relates to the need for members of the National Guard to travel to Vermont or New York to fire machine guns,” he said. “No mention was made of the use of the army’s new machine gun range at Fort Devens, Massachusetts.”
He said no one had mentioned that National Guard troops from as far away as Ohio regularly left their home state to travel to Camp Edwards for training.
Its own opposition to the range has to do with the potential impacts on drinking water, climate change, protected wildlife, noise pollution and transportation on the Upper Cape. He said he believed the proposal was also illegal under state laws created to protect the Upper Cape water reserve.
“I applaud our Barnstable County Commissioners for securing an outside lawyer to challenge the legality of this proposal,” he said.
He said the base was not the right location for a machine gun range, especially one that the Massachusetts Army National Guard doesn’t actually need and residents don’t want.
Calls for the project to be suspended, largely for environmental reasons, also came this week from State Senator Susan Moran.
“Twenty years ago there was a Cape Cod Commission master plan in which it was agreed that the 15,000 acres under the jurisdiction of the Fisheries and Wildlife Division would be protected conservation lands dedicated to the ‘water supply and wildlife habitat protection and that only military compatible uses would be permitted,’ she said.
Clear-cutting forest in the region is a blatant violation of this agreement, she said.
Senator Moran also took issue with recent threats to the Upper Cape economy, noting that the Cape Cod community has stepped up to help military families by organizing food and diaper drives, donating gift cards, meals, office space and discounts to members of the military when the federal budget closes in January 2019.
“Something recently forgotten with the threat of holding these same business neighbors hostage for the valued economic benefits the military brings to our businesses,” she said. “We can work together to find another way to make the base economically viable while preserving the integrity of this protected land.”