Fort Sumner greets Air Force officials

By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

FORT SUMNER — Air Force Special Operations Command personnel were in Fort Sumner Wednesday for an encore presentation of its public hearing on the Draft Environmental Statement for its proposed move to Cannon Air Force Base.

With residents in the Fort Sumner vicinity impacted by changes in the use of the 60,010-acre Melrose Bombing Range more directly than Clovis or Portales, Air Force officials paid special attention to those details in their presentation preceding the public comment section. The meeting followed a similar meeting in Clovis Tuesday.

A third and final hearing will be held today in Clayton.

“The village of Fort Sumner is eagerly awaiting the transition of Cannon Air Force Base,” Fort Sumner Mayor Juan Chavez said. “We are anxious to participate with the Air Force and be a part of the Cannon extended community.”

Chavez noted the assets of a municipal airport that was once a training runway for World War II pilots and the possibility of using nearby Sumner Lake for training.
DeBaca County Commissioner Powatan Carter said DeBaca County didn’t have a lot to offer financially but said it could offer possible access to 2,350 square miles of land that includes various terrain with lakes and rivers.

Carter along with Allen Sparks, representing the Fort Sumner Community Development Corp. and Fort Sumner Chamber of Commerce played, up the availability of the area for outdoor activities for the airmen and their families.

“We have a vision that the Fort Sumner area could become a playground for those at Cannon,” Sparks said.

Former Eastern New Mexico University President Everett Frost, representing the Local Growth Management Organization working on issues facing Portales and Clovis with the changes, welcomed the EIS document. He said it contained a wealth of valuable information that was going to help his group do its job of planning.

“We are proud to have you here as a part of our agricultural community,” local rancher Donna Luce said.

AFSOC contractor Bob Van Tassel explained proposed changes on the bombing range that would include live-fire from AC-130 gunships. He also told the crowd the aircraft that would be used are quieter and slower than current aircraft used at Cannon and would operate at night much of the time.

AFSOC proposes to move 100 aircraft and 5,680 airmen to Cannon by 2010 and would take over the base as the 27th Fighter Wing leaves in October.

The public has until May 14 to file written comments on the EIS with the Air Force.