Public Meetings Held Regarding Potential Impact of Eielson F-16 Move
ANCHORAGE - The Eielson-based 18th Aggressor Squadron could fly away from its home base near Fairbanks forever. That's if the Air Force goes forward with a plan to move the 21 aircraft and over 500 personnel to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage.
Before they can make the move, they have to perform an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Part of the process is addressing the communities with stakes in the move and hearing their concerns. They were in the Anchorage area for the second night in a row at Tyson Elementary.
Bill Popp, the CEO of the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, said that a great influx of people could bump up the cost of housing. For his testimony, he brought new numbers about the vacancy rate in Anchorage. Anchorage has about a quarter of the average real estate supply on hand at any given time. He said the high cost of housing in Anchorage could also have a negative impact on Air Force families.
A Fairbanks realtor who has fought the move since it was announced last year agreed. Wes Madden with Madden Real Estate pointed out that the average single family residential home in Fairbanks costs about $218,000 dollars. Anchorage's average is $338,000. Even if not every family bought a house, the impact on rentals could be big.
Eagle River Representative Dan Saddler noted that growth can be good for a community. "It's not a benefit to Anchorage at Eielson's expense. It would be a loss to the entire state as a transfer," he said.
Most of those signed up to comment represented a lawmaker or group. Richard Henningsen wasn't on official business, even though he retired from the Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He said, "My major concern my major concern is the geopolitical message that this retrenchment sends to our friends and our potential adversaries alike."
Alaska's congressional delegation has been fighting the move in Washington D.C. All three have questioned if the move will save money. Andrea Gusty, a staffer for Senator Lisa Murkowski, said seeing the savings on paper has been a challenge. "We don't know what the numbers are. The Air Force has come up with this plan saying it's going to save money, then they said it would cost millions of dollars."
Since savings is the engine driving the changes, finding if those savings are real will determine if the plan takes fight or stays grounded.
A final decision won't be made until after they release their final report in the fall.