RANGELEY — Dozens of Franklin County residents gathered on Tuesday night in Rangeley Lakes Regional School to solicit information about the potential construction of a Missile Defense Agency interceptor facility in nearby Redington Township.
Residents, including selectmen, the fire chief and concerned and curious citizens, clustered around about 15 informational posters, asking questions about the potential economic and environmental effect the interceptor facility would have on the tranquil outdoor community.
“There would be concerns about what the impact would be on changing the nature of the community,” said Cathryn Thorup, a Rangeley resident. “Rangeley is a community that has been based on outdoor tourism, which defines the character of the community. Anything that would challenge that would be of serious concern.”
The informal, conversation-based platform was designed to elicit comments, concerns and questions from area residents before the MDA continues formulating its environmental impact statement. The statement will report on the effect of the construction and maintenance of such a facility, which would be housed at the Center for Security Forces Detachment Kittery — Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Facility in Redington Township. The SERE facility would stay where it is, while the MDA interceptor facility would operate on Department of Defense-owned land.
The MDA held the forum to gather comments from residents.
“They’re at a point now where they don’t have a lot of information to share with us yet with the specific impact on Rangeley,” Thorup said. “I’m trying to figure out the environment impact it may have and the impact on the quality of life in the community, what it will do to the ground water and wildlife.”
Army Maj. Chris Anderson, who was answering questions at the first poster as residents entered the gymnasium, said the most common questions in the first hour were how construction would affect the surrounding area, which is dotted with lakes, forests and mountains, and whether such a site paints a target on Franklin County.
“We’re getting some great questions, really getting into it,” Anderson said. “There are environmental impacts, and that’s why we’re doing an environmental impact statement to see what those impacts would be on vegetation, animal species and other things.”
The study will evaluate the effect of building up to 60 ground-based interceptors and silos, interceptor fields, mission support facilities, nonmissile facilities, living quarters and transportation routes; and of decommissioning and disposal of components; and of conducting day-to-day operations.
The Redington location is one of four of about 450 still being considered, along with Fort Drum, N.Y., Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in Ohio and Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Mich.
Roughly 50 people attended the first hour of the three-hour public forum.
“The more people that come out, the better gauge of the community response,” said Ralph Scott, public affairs officer for the MDA.
Rob Welch, a selectman in Rangeley who has lived in the town since 1972, said this is the first of many conversations the town will have with the MDA and other military agencies about the proposal.
“This process, going from station to station, is a fragmentation of ideas and of comments,” Welch said. “I’m here to learn. This may be something we want, but this is one of many steps. I want to know what this does long-term to the psychology of Rangeley.
Standing at one of the posters, soliciting information from Army Lt. Col. Dan Martin, was Rangeley Fire Chief Tim Pellerin. With the greater community in mind, Pellerin asked Martin about any hazardous materials that would be housed at the facility — which wouldn’t be much, other than some rocket fuel, according to Martin — and how responsive the facility would be if emergency and fire personnel needed to enter. Pellerin and Martin talked for about 10 minutes before the fire chief moved along to another informational poster.
“That’s what we’re doing with the start of this impact study,” Martin said. “We want feedback from the community so that we cover everything.”
Jesse Scardina — 861-9239