RANGELEY — More than 45 people turned out Tuesday night at the Rangeley Lakes Regional School to learn, voice concerns or give positive feedback about the possibility of military missile interceptor base being built in northern Franklin County.

It was the first of four meetings the U.S. Missile Defense Agency is holding in Rangeley and Farmington to seek input on environmental issues and other concerns people may have if a potential interceptor site is located at the U.S. Navy’s 12,000-acre remote training school in Redington Township near Rangeley.

Some people were in favor of a site being built in Maine with the thought of jobs and a positive affect on the economy. Others voiced concern over the effect on tourism, roads, the school and more. Some people just came to listen and get information.

The Defense Agency is looking at three other potential sites in Ohio, Michigan and New York. It is conducting an environmental impact study as directed by Congress to determine the effect on the environment, the communities and other resources to determine the suitability for building an interceptor site in the lower 48 states. Two missile defense sites already exist, one in Alaska that has 26 interceptors in the ground, and one in California that has four interceptors, Ralph Scott, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, said.

The environmental study is expected to take 24 months. The process started this past spring, he said.

A ground-based interceptor is a multi-stage, solid fuel missile about 55-feet-long and four feet in diameter, he said.

Its purpose is to launch an Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle that has a sensor/propulsion package and uses the kinetic energy from a direct hit to destroy an incoming weapon of mass destruction in outer space, he said. That means there is no explosive element on the missile; it is a hit-to-kill system, he said.

The whole reason for the meetings is to provide an opportunity for people to express comments and concerns as part of the impact study, he said. People can give oral comments or written comments. People can also mail comments or submit them online.

All four sites are getting equal attention.

Several stations were set up around the school gym so that people could get an idea of what an interceptor site would look like and do, and so they could ask questions of the U.S. Army and Navy representatives at each one.

“We are looking at not only wildlife and their habitat, we are looking at the effect of anything put on the site,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Chris Snipes said. He is the project manager for the continental U.S. interceptor site.

They are also looking at the socioeconomic affect, the affect on the recreation areas, the school system, traffic and navigation of the roads to get the equipment to the site, he said.

“We are expanding out from the site to take into account as much as we can to study the area fully,” he said. There would be temporary jobs in construction and permanent jobs.

They are going to be using 1,200 to 1,800 people as a range for permanent workers, Snipes said. It would be a mix of contractors, military personnel and civilians.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be $3 to $4 billion, he said.

The ground-base defense system protects against intercontinental ballistic missiles, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dan Martin said. He is project manager for the ground-based ballistic missile defense system.

If there is a threat that is launched, the radar systems in place would determine what type of threat it is, he said.

“Our system would intercept an intercontinental ballistic missile in outer space,” Martin said.

Once a decision is made to build an interceptor site, it would take years to construct it, U.S. Army Major Keith Tucker said.

Rangeley resident Nick Pathiakis and his wife, Erin, said they were in favor of a missile interceptor base being constructed at the Navy’s site in Redington Township.

“It is a really remote area,” Nick Pathiakis said. The influx of workers and military personnel would be a benefit to the town of Rangeley and the economy, he said.

“The other thing I agree with is that we need to have one of these bases on the East Coast. Redington Township is the closest to an East Coast threat,” he said.

“I think it is a necessary evil,” his wife said.

Rangeley Selectman Shelly Lowell said she was seeing what is being offered so that she could learn more about the potential site.

“I’m for it completely,” Raymond Shorey of Oquossoc said. “The best offense is a good defense. Everybody in the world wants a piece of America. We need protection.”

Nancy Skean of New York, who has a second home in Rangeley, said she was disappointed there wasn’t a presentation on the proposal so that they would better understand what is going on instead of just going around to different stations.

“The Rangeley Region is so based on tourism. This is what drives the area,” she said. “It’s a very fragile economy here. There is nothing to fall back on.”

Judith Pfister of New York, who has a second home in Rangeley, said people come to Rangeley to escape and vacation and to enjoy the natural environment.

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More open-house style meetings on potential missile interceptor base in Franklin County are scheduled for:

• 9 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Aug. 13, in the gym at the Rangeley Lakes Regional School at 43 Mendolia Road, Rangeley.

• 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday, Aug. 14, Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington at 111 South St. in Farmington.

• 6 to 9 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 14, at Olsen Student Center at the University of Maine at Farmington at 111 South St. in Farmington.


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