Proposed G-RAMP concept includes civilian flights into RAFB

Air Force has not been presented with plan yet

mstucka@macon.comFebruary 10, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- City officials are looking into whether Robins Air Force Base’s runway could be made dual-use, hosting civilian flights to a long-discussed complex the city would build on the northeastern corner of the base.

The concepts, discussed Monday at the Warner Robins Redevelopment Agency meeting, haven’t been turned into a plan or formally presented to the Air Force. The agency’s executive director, Gary Lee, said there already are about two dozen military-civilian dual-use airports in the United States.

Such a change could mark a new direction for the long-planned Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership project. G-RAMP was originally planned to host maintenance hangars for military aircraft on 24 acres of city-owned property north of the base.

Monday, officials discussed whether the project could be expanded to cover 91 acres instead of just 24. Board advisory member Don Jarzynka said the site would be “a prime, plum target” for Fed­Ex or UPS or another company to move on to.

Lee said it was too early to talk about whether such civilian uses would be for maintenance, freight or other purposes.

Just 24 acres of the site are approved under an environmental assessment that took three years to obtain. The remaining 67 acres are low-quality wetland created from dirt “borrow pits” used to build the runway at Robins, Lee told The Telegraph. Those wetlands are on former dry land, so they were never natural or engineered high-quality wetlands.

Lee said the city could proceed to plan out use of the 24 acres while also trying to fit them into a concept that would use the full 91 acres.

The land is at the northeastern fence line, adjacent to Joint STARS Road on base and the city’s sewage plant just outside the fence. It’s less than a mile from the Ocmulgee River.

Charlie Beauchea, assistant city engineer, said the 24 acres were given a needed status of Finding of No Significant Impact and a finding of No Practicable Alternative in February 2013. Beauchea said the wetlands-regulating U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and base officials probably would like to see the other 67 acres of wetlands go away but can’t say so.

Such a swap could be done with wetlands credits coming from places that have preserved or created wetlands. Laura Mathis, director of public administration for the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, said her organization could help secure credits for local governments. She declined to speculate on costs, saying the quality of the wetlands on both sides of the transaction is critical to determine how many credits are needed.

Lee said the 21st Century Partnership could help pursue its vision. In a statement, Chrissy Miner, chief operating officer of the partnership, said the G-RAMP efforts are an asset that can bring growth.

“The partnership works daily in concert with our community partners toward initiatives that are for the betterment of Robins Air Force Base and the Middle Georgia region,” Miner said.

In other business, the Redevelopment Agency also is going to work to clean up a cemetery on the site, which was donated to the city. Dead trees may fall on graves dating from 1715 if they’re not taken down first.

Separately, the agency discussed work being done on Commercial Circle, a troubled area that could serve as Warner Robins’ downtown. Crews are installing utilities including new lights in the area, and agency members discussed how to upgrade the area with landscaping. Debra Jones, executive director of Keep Warner Robins Beautiful, is helping with the planning.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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