Thursday, August 21, 2008

Advocacy Makes Winner of Ft. Lewis

The area is a “winner” in several years of efforts to realign the Army and improve the nation’s defense posture. Ft. Lewis has and will continue to grow. Like any other major development, that growth will bring challenges along with its benefits.

But this summer, a surge of 10,000 returning soldiers plus possibly family dependents, will be returning from deployments. This “summer surge” will bring the impacts to education, housing and transportation that the community has missed since the post’s growth began in 2003.

In a forum this summer, the Chamber presented a forum of state and local elected officials along with Army leadership. The results:

The most immediate impact will undoubtedly be in transportation. Peaks of congestion are already evident at Ft. Lewis’s five gates. While some smaller new military units are still to come, already 13,000 military-affiliated students attend school districts in Pierce and Thurston Counties. Yet, only seven districts are known to track and seek federal compensation for military-affiliated students’ registration. While 70% of soldiers live off post, the housing impact will be spread around as about 55% of soldiers live in Pierce County and 45% in Thurston, a growing trend over the last few years.

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s keynote presentation at the forum addressed these community impacts and those of associated veterans’ issues. Patrick O’Brien, Director of the Office of Economic Adjustment/DOD gave a responsive keynote for the forum addressing the issues brought forth and challenged local officials.

For those cable subscribers to Comcast On Demand, you will find the video by following this path: Get Local>Around the Sound>Ft. Lewis. Click! Network customers will be able to access via VOD / Click! Local / South Sound Specials. The video is available for On Demand carriage on both cable systems to the Rainier Media Center member jurisdictions of Orting, Sumner, Fife, Pierce County, DuPont and University Place.

Cable viewers should look for the title “Ft. Lewis Growth” and the introductory paragraph: Ft. Lewis is growing, but most impacts have been obscured by deployments. As soldiers are returning it creates impacts on schools, housing and transportation. The forum reviews Ft. Lewis’s growth challenges to the community.

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