Commission chairmen of Bibb, Houston and Peach counties signed a cost-sharing agreement Friday to coordinate the buyout of 250 parcels. The land north of the sprawling base near Macon is an area military officials consider too noisy and too much at risk for plane crashes for people to keep living there.
The Telegraph of Macon reports local officials fear that without a land buyout, Robins could become a target in the next round of military base closures.
Similar encroachment issues have been the top reason bases have been shuttered in the past, said Brad Fink, the chairman of the 21st Century Partnership, a community group that works to support Robins and ensure the base stays open.
“As we sign this today, we will start looking at encroachment as an issue in the rearview mirror, which is great for Robins Air Force Base,” Fink said of the cost-sharing deal.
The agreement calls for Bibb and Houston counties to spend $6 million apiece. Peach County will chip in an additional $400,000. The state and federal governments are expected to contribute millions more.
Officials say 93 land parcels have already been acquired and the rest should be bought up within two years.
Col. Mitchel Butikofer, commander of the Robins-based 78th Air Base Wing, praised the local officials for working together.
“It’s phenomenal to see the cooperation and team work that has come together for the Department of Defense, to help us provide a safe and secure environment,” Butikofer said. “That’s what it’s all about.”
The deal replaces an old agreement between Bibb and Houston counties to contribute $100,000 per year toward the buyouts over five years. Tommy Stalnaker, the chairman of the Houston County Commission, said a new deal was needed because the old one predates both counties approving a sales tax referendum to put more money toward the land purchases.
Peach County also agreed to contribute since the old deal was signed.