Adviser to study aviation uses

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BRUNSWICK (AP) – A study will get under way this spring to determine whether Brunswick Naval Air Station should be used as a commercial airport or some other aviation use once it closes as a military base.

The study will go a long way toward determining the overall development of the 3,200-acre base, which is scheduled to close by 2011.

The Maine Department of Transportation, which is overseeing selection of a consultant to undertake the study, has chosen three finalists to compete for the $200,000 contract. The finalists will be interviewed April 18, and the study could begin as soon as May. It must finished by February.

Even if a commercial airport is feasible, an important question is whether the community would support it, said Steven Levesque, executive director for the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority.

“I think we need to start asking people the question: How would they feel if we had an airport out there?” he said.

The base is being closed down as part of the military’s massive reorganization. Nobody knows for sure what the facility will be in the future, but it has the infrastructure for aviation applications.

The airfield portion of the base has two parallel 8,000-foot runways, three airplane hangars and a new air traffic control tower. A consultant will try to determine through community meetings or surveys whether residents would support aviation enterprises at the base.

The process is still early and people haven’t made their wishes known, said Joanne King, chairwoman of Brunswick’s Town Council.

“The few comments I have heard have been mixed. One concern is, if you make it into a regional airport you will hear a lot more noise,” she said.

Tracy Perez, who is managing the study for the Department of Transportation, said the air station could be geared toward passenger services, a cargo operation or an aircraft maintenance operation.

“A big part of this study is looking at the market demand,” said Perez. “One thing the study might look at is: Is the Portland Jetport at capacity, or is there overflow… Are there needs out there that are not being met?”

Resolving the airport issue early in the process is critical to planning for the overall development of the base, Levesque said. The redevelopment authority must present the Town Council with a recommended reuse plan by September 2007.

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