Cherry Point’s new commanding officer said Friday that the base is entering “challenging times” but that the relationship between Havelock, its citizens and base personnel will “get us through.”
Col. Chris Pappas III took a step toward strengthening those bonds in a meeting with city officials on Friday.
“The relationship that the city and the air station has goes a long, long ways back and I’m looking forward to continuing the relationship that we’ve had,” Pappas said. “These are going to be challenging times coming up with our decreasing resources, and relationships are going to get us through this time together.”
City Manager Jim Freeman, with newly hired city manager Frank Bottorff at his side, gave the base officials a “quick snapshot” of Havelock.
Pappas assumed command of the base on Aug. 22 and said he’s had a busy first couple of months.
“Our resources are going down, pointing south rapidly, and we’re making hard choices today about what’s going to happen this year and next year,” Pappas said. “As you know, Havelock and the air station are not just neighbors. We have been good friends for quite a long time. I want to continue that. I want to be open and honest and do everything I can do to make decisions that help that relationship.”
Rick Zaccardelli, chief of the Havelock Fire and Rescue Department, told Pappas of the importance base rescue helicopter Pedro has been to the city and surrounding areas. He pointed to a Sept. 27 crash in which the helicopter landed on Fontana Boulevard to transport two injured victims to the hospital.
“It is impressive watching that happen, not only the fact that you all trust us enough to respond but also the coordination from the police getting that (landing zone) set up in a hurry,” Pappas said. “You couldn’t have filmed that thing any better if you had set it up for a movie, but it just happened, so that’s evident to me about how well you all are working together, so I appreciate it. I think that the relationship has been solid.”
Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus made an offer for base personnel to join city officers in training, and Pappas was supportive.
“I know that we typically have a pretty hefty training calendar, but if there is a time that you are doing training that you’d like to work with us, I’d be more than happy to support it,” Pappas said.
Public Services Director Bill Ebron told Pappas about the base’s cooperation in allowing Havelock’s sewage treatment pipe to be placed on base property to access the Neuse River. The $11.5 million project will benefit both the city and the base by allowing for increased sewer capacity to support growth, Ebron said.
City officials displayed a chart showing where they thought Havelock would be in the year 2059. Pappas said Cherry Point also has a long-term plan but national budget issues have the base planning year by year.
“Our Marine Family Program money looks like it’s solid this year, but as we already talked about, the long-term effect of sequestration is going to make it more and more challenging to do business,” Pappas said.
The initial meeting was conducted at the West End Fire Station, but the group then traveled by van to the sewage treatment plant and to the Havelock Tourist and Event Center where Pappas took a walking tour of the proposed waterfront park at Slocum Creek.
“I think it looks amazing,” Pappas said. “You take a look at the effort that the city has put into redeveloping the city center and I think it’s going to be a very, very impressive area that both the city residents and the military dependents can come and enjoy. Looking at what the convention center looks like, it’s a great resource. Havelock should be rightfully proud of what they’ve done here. It’s going to be great.”