Meeting Held To Discuss BRAC Planning

Columbus sales taxes may rise to help pay for more soldiers coming to Fort Benning.  A meeting was held Monday morning to focus on strategic planning for base realignment.

Local cities are expecting more people, and that translates into a growing need for things like schools and public safety.  "I think the key though is to make sure that there's no surprises to anybody and how that actual growth is going to happen over time," said Garrison Commander Col. Keith Lovejoy.

Each year 75,000 soldiers are trained at Fort Benning.  However, by 2011 that number will exceed 100,000.  The influx of people will of course mean the construction of more homes.  Which will also mean putting more police on the streets.  In Columbus, those salaries could come from an alternative measure to generate more revenue.  "I think at some point to deal with the revenue needs we have to to form a local option sales tax," Columbus City Manager Isaiah Hugley.

That could generate 34 million dollars a year, and would only happen as a last resort.  Schools are expecting nearly 10,000 new students.  That's why these meetings are top priority.  "You can't build schools over night.  It takes an average 18 months to build a school, but you can fast track that to one year, if everything flows without a problem," said Muscogee Co. Deputy Superintendent Dr. Robin Pennock.

That is no problem since here in the Valley everyone is working together.  "I've been to some places in my career where that's not the case.  It's military over here and civilians over here, but here there is a combined community effort," said Lovejoy.

Every month Fort Benning hosts a similar meeting to give the community an update on BRAC.  It's all to take questions and answer concerns on this huge influx of people.  The meetings are open to the public.