Carson, community express concerns
April 26, 2010
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.---The impacts of the Mountain Post's growth and increased deployment schedule took center stage earlier this month as about 300 people attended the Fort Carson Community Partnership Town Hall at the Doubletree Hotel Colorado Springs-World Arena.
Fort Carson and community leaders briefed the attendees on the challenges associated with Fort Carson growing by 10,000 Soldiers, the effects deployments have on the region and the findings and recommendations of Phase 2 of the Fort Carson Regional Growth Plan prior to allowing citizens to voice their concerns during a panel question and answer session.
"We realize Fort Carson is a large installation that borders ... a great community like Colorado Springs," said Brig. Gen. James Pasquarette, deputy commanding general for support, 4th Infantry Division. "While we believe we have a very positive impact on the community, we realize that there are those out there that have some problems with some issues - with how we operate and what we are doing - and we want to hear from them; we want to be able to work with the community to work together to resolve those issues that's satisfactory for both us and for our great (community) partners."
Prior to introducing Pasquarette for his Fort Carson overview briefing, City of Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells noted Fort Carson and the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments worked together for the past 18 months to better understand the impact the Mountain Post's growth has on the region.
"(The Fort Carson Regional Growth Plan) will help each and every one of us to fully be prepared to respond to the needs of the growing Soldier population and certainly enable us to make this community a community of which we are all truly proud," she said.
Pasquarette assured those in attendance that Fort Carson would improve its communications with citizens affected by Fort Carson expansion projects, through events such as town halls, to allow community members to voice their concerns and to explain the need for the projects.
Two hot topics he addressed were expanding PiAfA+-on Canyon Maneuver Site near Trinidad, Colo., and the Fort Carson railyard construction to meet the expanding deployment requirements.
"The Army has a valid requirement for more training space based on the amount of units we have stationed here and the amount of training capacity we currently have," Pasquarette said. "However, there are no plans to go and grab more land through imminent domain, which is not what the Army is going to do. We are willing to consider buying more land in Pinon Canyon if there are willing sellers."
As for the increased rail capacity, Pasquarette said Stratmoor Hills citizens have voiced concerns about the Army's plans to add a rail spur parallel to the existing one along B Street that would extend about a mile beyond the gate. Plans include construction of a handicap-accessible overpass bridge spanning B Street and the tracks near Stratmoor Hills Elementary School and replacing a wooden bridge inside the track area with a reinforced cement bridge.
"We kind of got out in front of ourselves," he said, noting community members will have an opportunity to have their concerns addressed in a community meeting in May.
"We think we have a good argument why we need to do this, however we need to engage those who are affected by this. We wish we could go back and do this right the first time, but I think we are doing the right thing by backing it up and letting the community (voice its concerns)."
The general was followed by Wayne Williams, El Paso County commissioner and PPACG chairman of the board, who briefed the findings of the Fort Carson Regional Growth Plan.
"Once the announcement was made that Fort Carson was going to dramatically expand (with Soldiers and Family members), we recognized the need to have someone in the community looking at what the impacts are ... how does that affect us as a community, our schools, business and all the many other things that we do'" he said.
He said the group's mission is to understand how the changes at Fort Carson and the Mountain Post's annual spending of $1.9 billion affects off-post housing, schools, adult education, transportation, child care and medical care.
"We just want to match up service needs," Rob MacDonald, PPACG executive director, said in an interview after the conclusion of the town hall.
"We have to tell the community (about our findings) ... so that they can understand with deployments there's going to be some ebb and flow" when it comes to the number of troops and Families at Fort Carson, he said. Currently Fort Carson has about 9,500 Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
When it comes to services like health care and child care, he said businesses need to understand the generalized deployment timelines so they can plan appropriately.
He said the growth plan identifies the needs to accommodate when all 25,000 Soldiers and their Families are home.
"There is no silver bullet of funding ... we can't go get a billion dollars from somewhere ... we have about a $200 million list of critical needs, so with that list we want to implement ... what is needed," MacDonald said.
A question-and-answer panel session afforded community members an opportunity to voice their concerns to a panel consisting of Pasquarette, MacDonald, Fort Carson Garrison Commander Col. Robert F. McLaughlin, Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee President Brian Binn and El Pomar Foundation Director of Military Support Terrance McWilliams.
Williams said the committee is looking for community input on the 400-page Fort Carson Growth Plan, available at http://www.ppacg.org, to be incorporated into the final report to be completed by the end of June.