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Depot contingent happy with effort

July 08, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Franklin County's delegation of former and current Letterkenny Army Depot workers, concerned citizens and community and government leaders left Washington Thursday encouraged that the government might keep the military base open.

"We made the best presentation we could have made," said L. Michael Ross, president of the Franklin County Area Development Corp.

Ross was one of more than 60 representatives from the county who traveled to Capitol Hill Thursday. They made their pitch to three members of the Base Realignment Closure Commission (BRAC) to keep Letterkenny intact at a regional hearing of the base closure commission.

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There were three commissioners in attendance. They made few comments, and did not indicate what recommendation they would make on the Pennsylvania bases.

The commission is supposed to make its recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8 on which of the nation's military bases should be closed or realigned.

State and national officials arguing to keep Pennsylvania's bases open included Gov. Ed Rendell and U.S. Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum.

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., spoke on behalf of Letterkenny.

Shuster, in a prepared release issued following the presentation, said "Letterkenny has a lot to offer the military - a highly skilled workforce, a secure missile facility, room for expansion and close proximity to a handful of transportation hubs including Dover Air Force Base."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has recommended an expansion of Letterkenny that could mean 400 new jobs.

"I thought we had a good day for Letterkenny," Ross said. "There were 61 people from all walks of life from Franklin County in Washington supporting Letterkenny. We did an exceptional job in 10 minutes. It was a bipartisan effort."

On the whole, Ross said, Pennsylvania did very well before the commission.

Specter, Santorum, Rendell and a handful of House members, along with economic and military leaders, focused their arguments on keeping open Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside Philadelphia and the Pittsburgh International Airport Air Reserve Station.

The Pentagon recommended in May that both be shut down during this year's base closure round. More than 1,600 jobs are at stake.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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