Cannon Air Force base will stay open... for now. The base realignment and closure commission voted six to one with two abstentions to turn Cannon into an enclave. That means Cannon's three F-16 fighter squadrons will move elsewhere. But the base will continue to operate in a diminished state until 2010.
At that time the base must define a new mission to stay open. If it does not, the base will close. New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman spoke to NewsChannel 11 on the phone and said the state will start working on that new mission immediately. "We have a challenge now to persuade the pentagon that there are other missions that can be brought to Cannon and should be brought to Cannon. BRAC commissioners called Cannon the most agonizing decision they made all day."
The Clovis community started an effort to save Cannon and has been watching the BRAC hearings closely. NewsChannel 11 went to Clovis where most citizens say they're relieved.
"We were extremely concerned because it wasn't going to have an immediate effect on our business but over the long haul it would have a tremendous impact in population and income for the city," Ronnie Jones said. Clovis businessman Ronnie Jones says the BRACS decision was a relief but definitely an unexpected decision. "It's going to be a great relief for much of us, well all of us actually. It's not a complete loss, so it's a victory," Jones said.
"My immediate feeling was of relief, yes, very relived that maybe our little community could keep on going but the more we talked about it the more we wondered if it was a good thing or not," said Clovis resident Patti Spain.
"I was rather disappointed, I don't think they gave us a true picture of what they really want to do. Most of the bases in the army or navy places that they made decisions on was cut and dry, close it or keep it open. Cannon for some reason seemed to be a major concern because they couldn't say yes or no, instead they are dragging it out for four more years," resident George Peck said.
One third of the Clovis economy is fueled by Cannon Air Force base and it seems the majority of the people we found are relived with the BRAC's decision. "The initial reaction was a little bit uncertain because we weren't expecting anything but an up or down vote and this is something in the middle," Clovis Mayor David Lansford said.
But Clovis Mayor David Lansford says the good qualities of Cannon Air Force base kept them in the running. And the future transitions to update the base is a good thing. "So it's really an opportunity for us to do what we've always wanted to do and that is bring in more high tech, future mission capability that's sustainable for the long term," Mayor Lansford said.
It's still not clear how Friday's decision will effect the Clovis economy. Meanwhile, the commission has until September 8th to present its final report to President Bush, but he has already indicated he plans on approving the recommendations.
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