Signs of a more combined front between Craven County and Havelock to help protect Cherry Point assets emerged during a meeting of city and county officials Tuesday at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
The meeting, which included members of the Allies for Cherry Point’s Tomorrow lobby group, included recommendations from a Washington lobbying firm on how best to protect Cherry Point, which provides about $2 billion in annual economic impact to the region.
"I think it kind of opens eyes," Lee K. Allen, a Craven County commissioner from Havelock, said after the meeting. "If we don’t work together, we all lose together."
The lobbying group Cassidy and Associates, hired by Craven County, made a presentation to the officials and other city and county leaders about efforts to inform Washington legislators and others of the importance of Cherry Point and the Fleet Readiness Center East maintenance and repair facility.
"I thought it was excellent," said Scott Dacey, chairman of the Craven County Board of Commissioners. "We had a wonderful opportunity to get together with the people that we’ve retained in Washington D.C. and have them meet face to face with the people that are developing the information and the policies that we’ve got on the ground. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity."
Havelock Commissioner Danny Walsh said he thought the meeting opened a new chapter in the relationship between Craven County and Havelock in protecting Cherry Point.
"It’s time that we all began to work together," he said. "That’s the most important thing we can do is stay together as a group and work as the state, the county, the city, the base and all be working together."
Barry Rhoads, president of Cassidy and Associates, told the group that military contracts are getting smashed in Washington, which he referred to as "really kind of crazy" in terms of its atmosphere.
He did tell the group a Base Realignment and Closure process would be likely in either 2015 or 2017.
Shawn Edwards, a vice president of the firm, told the group that effort needed to be put into securing a major project at Cherry Point within the next five years that the Department of Defense could not live without.
Edwards spoke favorably of the new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, seven squadrons of which are scheduled to be based at Cherry Point beginning in 2021 or 2022. The new jets are scheduled to replace the AV-8B Harriers currently at Cherry Point.
"Right now things look pretty good for the B variant," he said.
Edwards said Cherry Point’s bombing ranges in Carteret County were an asset and should be protected.
"Anything that encroaches on those ranges should be discouraged as much as possible," he said.
Allen said after the meeting that the county would continue to work with Havelock on encroachment issues.
"The county will do all it can, and Havelock has traditionally been very proactive in preventing encroachment on the base and the county has supported the city in doing that and we will continue to do that," he said.
Havelock Major Jimmy Sanders, who serves as president of ACT, said the presentation was appreciated.
"We have a lot of issues before us, a lot of challenges before us but the groups are coming together nicely and we want to thank Craven County for their support," he said.