Officials seeking grant aid for base

Pendleton County is applying for a Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment grant to provide assistance to a community undergoing the loss of a DOD-related facility, County Commissioner Gene McConnell told about 30 residents at a public hearing last week.

The grant is to help reuse and/or redevelop plans for military installations approved for closure or realignment, McConnell said.

The lower base of the Navy Information Operations Command in Sugar Grove is due to be phased out by the National Security Agency by October 2015.

The grant provides funding for a planning process including an economic study of the county, an economic impact study, a competitive analysis, a target industry analysis and a strategic action plan.

“We don’t really know what exactly the economic impact the closing of this base will have on the community. This study will help define that,” McConnell said.

The West Virginia Economic Development Authority and Region 8 Planning and Development Council are helping in the grant process.

“There will be a citizen advisory committee formed to assist in the application process,” McConnell added.

The public hearing was part of a process to keep county citizens updated on the latest information concerning the impending closure of the Sugar Grove Navy Base so they “know what we know to this point … to share with you the reality of what is developing … what we know to be factual; not what we hope might happen nor any theory about what might happen,” McConnell said.

“We think it’s vitally important that, as this process evolves, we remain grounded in reality,” he added.

The commission is not aware of any DOD, federal government or state government interest in the base.

The county has no control over the process of repurposing the base; will not invest any county funds in whatever occurs at NIOC; will participate in any proposal that will benefit the county; and will evaluate to minimize any risks to the county, McConnell said.

Local government and military officials have met with two private organizations that have shown interest in the base, “but there are no commitments possible due to the hierarchical process of the DOD,” McConnell said.