Marine Corps’ expansion translates to larger Craven population

Bill Hitchcock

Marine Corps’ expansion translates to larger Craven population
Sue Book
New Bern Sun Journal

HAVELOCK — Military growth connected to a Marine Corps “Grow The Force”ramp-up will add 1.8 percent to Craven County’s metropolitan service area population and a whopping 9.8 percent to that area for Jacksonville in Onslow County by 2011.

Most of the military positions connected to that growth are already assigned to Marine bases at Cherry Point and Camp Lejeune. A Military Growth Task Force tasked with accommodating them in the region began accelerating its efforts at a meeting at the Havelock Tourist and Events Center Thursday morning.

A representative for strategic planning from consulting group Marsel Day updated those attending on the master plan draft released in mid-July and urged members to quickly submit their priority lists for projects, from infrastructure needs to schools and housing.

Interim Task Force Director Jay Bender said the Task Force plans to meet at least twice in the next few weeks preceding an early September visit by staff of the Office of Economic Assistance to do a project needs assessment and look at projects that need help on funding.

Jimmy Sanders, Havelock mayor and a Task Force member, said, “That has not been done yet. We have simply listed them. We all need to do that. No question.”

He said he is not certain what Havelock’s No. 1 priority will be, but expects increased sewer capacity and a “flyover” or grade differential interchange at the Slocum Gate to MCAS Cherry Point on U.S. 70 East are near the top.

Member Lonnie Pridgen of New Bern said, “We’ll be working hard and meeting often to get the draft comments back so we can get a finished product.”

The Office of Economic Assistance is the major funding agency for the Growth Task Force, with contributions also coming from the seven counties and several municipalities expected to get most of the growth.

The Task Force has funding in place to operate through December and has been reasonably assured of an eight-to 12-month extension, Bender said.

Meanwhile, Pridgen said a search committee interviewing prospects for the director’s position that opened with the June resignation of Tom Gaskill has narrowed down its list “to a couple of people. No decision has been made yet, but I expect it will meet within the next week.”

The meeting, hosted by the City of Havelock, was well attended by Task Force members from the seven-county region and the general population.

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Author’s Yougler Profile is at  Bill Hitchcock.

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