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After registering frustration over Joint Base Cape Cod’s lack of responsiveness in picking a date for a public meeting in Falmouth to discuss a proposed machine gun range, the select board has scheduled the meeting for the end of August, with or without base officials.
The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, August 26, at 6 PM at Falmouth High School, with the hope that Falmouth’s state representatives will attend. The board said it is an opportunity for groups and residents to air their concerns to state lawmakers, and hopefully base officials.
“Falmouth residents have done a lot of research on this and deserve to be heard,” select board member Nancy R. Taylor said.
At Monday night’s Falmouth Select Board meeting, town officials said several invitations to the JBCC staff have gone unanswered.
“I am concerned about continuing to go back and forth with them on a meeting date. We’ve done that and they don’t respond and it is fruitless and frustrating. We need to be done with that and set a date,” Ms. Taylor said.
She told Town Manager Julian M. Suso she has seen all the email invitations he has sent to JBCC since April asking for a meeting.
“As you noted, I come up empty each time. It is equally as frustrating on my part, I can assure you,” he said.
The town has yet to formally take a position on the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s plans for the training grounds, which would require clearing 170 acres of trees, and has been waiting for more details from base officials.
Numerous questions remain unanswered, including concerns on how the machine gun range would affect the region’s aquifer and wildlife habitat, as well as the traffic and noise the range would generate.
Select board chairman Douglas C. Brown said some people might support the idea if they were presented with all the facts.
“It is unfortunate because it is not clear we would all be opposed to it, but we haven’t had the chance to consider it carefully without all the information,” he said. He also noted the Mashpee Select Board grew tired of waiting to hear from JBCC. When the town did not get a response, it issued a letter of opposition.
In May, JBCC hosted an online meeting about its plans that left many activists and residents unsatisfied and brought up more environmental concerns. Then, in June, Camp Edwards Base Commander Colonel Matthew Porter gave the Falmouth Select Board an update. Ms. Taylor said the presentation fell short.
“As I recall, he was not prepared to speak on this issue. I was unclear whether he was there just to listen,” she said.
Mr. Brown noted that at that meeting, the colonel said he would be available for a public meeting in July, but he was not able to commit.
“The result was his unpreparedness postponed this board from having the discussion and gave us hope for another meeting,” Mr. Brown said.
The board said a public meeting should be scheduled soon, before the state Environmental Management Commission meets again. The commission will make the decision on whether the range is approved.
Mr. Suso said he has not been able to ascertain when the commission is set to decide on the range.
“The best information we have is they are meeting in the fall, but they are fairly guarded when that meeting would occur,” he said.
The town plans to reach out to Falmouth’s State House delegation for the public meeting. Depending on their availability, the meeting could be held on September 2 instead. The town manager’s office will post the notice once the date is set officially.
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