The proposed federal training site near Ruthsburg once again dominated the public comment period at the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. But in stark contrast to the almost unanimous opposition at the meeting earlier this month, proponents of the project made their voice heard.
While still outnumbered by those speaking against the project (19 spoke against, six in favor), supporters for the proposed Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at the meeting argued that the facility would bring much-needed jobs and economic development to the county.
Stevensville resident Susan Hale, for one, argued that the high quality of life residents enjoy costs money, and that new jobs and businesses are needed to maintain this standard. “While you have approved yet more gas stations and food services in the Kent Island-Grasonville area, which provide only minimal increase to our tax and employment base,” Hale said, “you have failed to support any big projects that would provide the kind of technology or other high paying jobs that our county is sorely lacking.”
She called on the commissioners to “listen carefully to all of your constituents.”
“I can understand the residents of Ruthsburg … saying ‘not in my backyard,’” Hale said. “But any changes or commercial development in our county will have to be in someone’s backyard.”
Queen Anne resident Bill Sylvester also voiced his support for the project. He said he has lived in the area all of his life, and even apologized to his friends and neighbors for his support.
The “$100 million in construction and 500 jobs is nothing to sneeze at,” Sylvester said, “and you, [the commissioners], need to give this serious consideration.”
For those opposing the project, citizens again voiced concerns about damage to the environment, noise from shooting ranges and explosions as well as how potential grievances with the completed facility would be handled by the government.
While several residents have appeared at both meetings this month, several new speakers, including 14-year-old Centreville Middle School student Spencer Bramble, voiced their views on why they oppose the project.
“For you all that support this, sooner or later, you’re going to die,” Bramble said, “And you’re going to leave this to the next generation of kids, which is me, and I really don’t want to raise my family … and deal with the traffic. I don’t want to hear bombs. I don’t want to hear gunshots, unless it’s for geese flying overhead. And I hope you all wake up, smell the roses, and decide that this is a wrong idea.”