WARNER ROBINS -- Midstate government officials, including those from Robins Air Force Base, said they’re moving closer to eliminating incompatible land use near the base, a problem generally termed encroachment.
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who took part in Monday’s Robins Region Progress Report at the Museum of Aviation, said air quality and encroachment are two major issues facing Robins at a time when even minor issues will be scrutinized.
“Sen. Chambliss, we’ve heard you loud and clear,” said Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker. “It may not be the first time, but it’s going to be the last time, because we’re fixing to put this baby to bed.”
Stalnaker told The Telegraph he’s working on a plan, to be released in the next several months, to cure encroachment problems for good.
Among the biggest obstacles is funding to buy encroaching properties, most of which are in noisy south Bibb County areas nearly in line with the runway.
“It’s too big for any two governments,” Stalnaker said. Funding from local governments -- likely including Houston, Bibb and Peach counties -- would probably need to be matched against state and federal funding to buy the properties.
Bibb County is considering $6 million for encroachment in November’s sales-tax referendum, and Houston County also will consider encroachment funds through a sales-tax referendum that Stalnaker said the County Commission has not yet decided to call.
Warner Robins Mayor Chuck Shaheen said he would favor using sales-tax money to end encroachment issues.
“We just know it’s a problem, and we need to solve it,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen and Stalnaker said cooperation is key to ending the problem.
Chan Layson, an employee of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission who has been working on encroachment issues, said he expects cooperation between local, state and federal governments will show relatively quick progress, perhaps buying another 70 properties in the next year. Seven properties have been closed on so far, he said. The local money is being matched against other sources.
Layson warned against confusing progress for a cure, which will take years and plenty of money. About 125 property owners were willing to sell several years ago and had their homes appraised. Nearly all are still waiting, and Layson estimated purchase and demolition costs at about $17 million. Stalnaker said all the properties, including properties owned by people who have not agreed to sell, could range in price from $18 million to $24 million.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.