GUEST VIEW: Having Beale in our community is a right we must earn by Gary Bradford
Last month I had the honor of attending the Defense Communities National Summit in Washington, D.C., with my fellow Yuba County Supervisor, Andy Vasquez. We joined more than 800 of our country’s leaders, defense experts and decision makers to discuss what we, as a community with a military base, can do to improve the infrastructure to support our base’s missions.
Locally, Beale Air Force Base’s infrastructure and its sustainment are critical to the success of their missions and the long-term viability of the base staying in our community. This infrastructure covers everything from transportation, public safety and utilities, to affordable housing and availability of employment for military spouses. Strengthening this infrastructure can only be achieved through a partnership of military, defense communities, government and private sector.
Beale Air Force Base provides jobs, tax revenue and economic development for our region. In 2017 that total economic impact was calculated to be more than $627 million per year. But with future defense budgets in limbo and the potential for base realignments and closures, this valuable resource is not something we can take for granted. This summit made it abundantly clear that communities who support their installations fare much better than those that don’t. Having Beale in our community is a right we must earn every day.
We must work to improve the quality of our schools and ensure our community is a safe place to live on many levels. Locally, that means not only being safe from crime, but being safe from flooding and fires, safe housing, safe drinking water, reliable utilities and roads in good repair.
At the summit we learned of an exciting new federal funding source called the Defense Community Infrastructure Program (DCIP) which will provide up to 70 percent of the costs for community infrastructure projects outside of a base that provide military value to the base. The program has been established by Congress but not funded, yet, which means we have a small window of time to get our ducks in a row so we can be first in line when the funding becomes available. While the total appropriation is unknown, it was hinted at around $100 million annually. We must work closely with Beale and our local Congressman, John Garamendi, to pick the best projects that have the best chance of funding, ensure the local-match funding is available and put together project summaries.
Top on my list would be transportation projects, such as repaving Ostrom Road, improvements such as turn lanes on Hammonton-Smartsville Road at the intersection to the Doolittle gate, and — I know it’s a stretch for this funding source — but a new Highway 65 interchange at South Beale Road.
To start these conversations, I’ve arranged a meeting for myself, Supervisor Vasquez and our County Building and Planning Department heads to meet with key Beale staff.
You can access most of the Summit presentations on their site at www.adcsummit.org/presentations.
(Gary Bradford is the Yuba County Supervisor for District 4, covering the areas of Beale AFB, Plumas Lake, and Wheatland.)