I've read with interest the articles and letters regarding the Air Force proposal to expand their flying training zone. Now I read that there is a call for folks to gather together to stop the training proposal.
My mantra has always been that if you don't ask, you don't get. So I offered a suggestion to Commissioner Alicia Edwards on how perhaps there is a win-win solution for both parties…those opposed to the Air Force flying training expansion, and those of you, like me, who would support a planned expansion. Commissioner Edwards told me she'd discuss my proposal with other commissioners.
My proposal would be to enter in a business arrangement with the Department of Defense, specifically the US Air Force, to lease Grant County airspace for flying operations. Details could be worked out but essentially, the cost of one F-16 Fighting Falcons is about $18.6M and I believe Grant County could ask for a reasonable amount perhaps $10M for a period of three to five years and then renegotiate. We already have the ear of some of our federal legislators when the Air Force "forgot" to hear Grant County citizens on the Air Force proposal.
I am aware of and participated in a joint Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center-Air Force project in Alamogordo in 1999 in which $7M Air Force dollars were provided for equipment and furniture for the new hospital under construction at that time. In return, the Air Force received a cut in the hospital's fee for service provided to active duty and TRICARE patients. In addition and more important, the Air Force's readiness mission remained intact at Holloman as the medical providers were privileged to work at the new community hospital remaining assigned to Holloman. The project had support from federal legislators Senators Domenici, Bingaman, and Representative Skeen and strong support from the Air Force Chief of Staff Four Star at the time. This was a win-win for Alamogordo and the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center.
Another example was in El Paso in 1995 in the private healthcare sector where Tenet Healthcare bought the not for profit Providence Memorial Healthcare system for millions of dollars which were placed in an El Paso foundation that continues to grow interest in the principal and fund community projects. There was lots of community opposition to selling the not for profit, but in the end, the community benefitted. Tenet has constructed two new hospitals since 1995 and El Paso has funded a score of projects through the established foundation.
Fellow citizens, think of it. $10M coming into Grant County on a recurring basis that could be placed in a Grant County community foundation that would fund projects for its citizens.
Oh, and as a side bar regarding pollution. We should worry about the autos and trucks, the fireplaces that spew out pollution out in the air we breathe. In my opinion, breathing this daily pollution is more hazardous to our personal and environmental health than jet noise and the jet fuel pollution that would be created. Think win-win!
Alfredo Ontiveros, Retired USAF Medical Service Corps Officer, Soon to be a Grant County resident