A common goal of sustaining Fort Leonard Wood in the face of Department of Defense budget cuts took center stage at the Meramec Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) board meeting held Sept. 12 as board members learned about two programs aimed at strengthening the military installation and surrounding communities.
According to Joe Driskill, executive director of the Leonard Wood Institute and the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, who spoke at the meeting, the partnership’s mission is to “benefit the Army and region by supporting innovation and building partnerships focused on Fort Leonard Wood.”
He explained to the board that the partnership is funded through a Corps of Engineers grant, Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credits and private sector donations.
The organization’s goal is to counter Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) efforts and major military cuts that might target Fort Leonard Wood.
Driskell shared that a recent study commissioned by the Hawthorne Foundation and conducted by Kit Bond Strategies found that Fort Leonard Wood accounts for $2.1 billion in personnel spending and some 34,600 direct and indirect jobs.
MRPC board members also heard a progress report on the Fort Leonard Wood Joint Land Use Study, which has been financed by the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment and administered by MRPC. It is being prepared by Benchmark CMR of Kannapolis, N.C.
The study, which began in the fall of 2012, aimed to identify how Fort Leonard Wood may be impacting its public and private sector neighbors as well as suggest ways that Fort Leonard Wood and the surrounding communities can work together to help ensure mutual prosperity and sustainability.
The nearly completed study is scheduled for public presentation Oct. 3. Once completed, the MRPC board will be asked to adopt the document, as will surrounding city and county governments, which have been involved in the study process.
The Joint Land Use Study also found that currently Fort Leonard Wood has very few compatibility issues with the areas surrounding it — a fact that may be useful in combating a potential BRAC.
This is largely because of the vast amount of United States Forestry Service land bordering the installation, especially on the southern edge where many firing ranges and noise hazards are located.
For more information on the Fort Leonard Wood Joint Land Use Study, visit www.fortlw-jlus.com. For more information on the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership, visit www.sustainableozarks.org.
In other business, the MRPC board:
• Heard an update on the MRPC 2013 annual dinner which will take place Nov. 14 at the YMCA of the Ozarks in Potosi. Washington County will serve as a host.
• Learned that MRPC will again partner with the Central District Coalition for Roadway Safety to encourage schools in the Meramec region to participate in the Battle of the Belt.
Page 2 of 2 - • Learned that the two flood relief funds established by Meramec Regional Community Foundation on behalf of Phelps and Pulaski counties' flood victims had received more than $9,600 in donations. MRPC’s board and staff contributed to those funds. Staff is now accepting applications to distribute funds.