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Community leaders plan forum on high-stakes Eielson transfer

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Posted: Monday, May 21, 2012 11:14 pm

FAIRBANKS — An hour-long panel discussion on various aspects of the proposed move of the F-16 jets to Anchorage is set for at 7 tonight on Channel 13

The latest version of the plan shows Fairbanks losing 1,200 military jobs and close to 400 civilian jobs within a couple of years as a result of transferring 19 jets from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The “Project Eielson” TV forum, organized by the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, is part of the effort to keep the community informed about an issue that could have an enormous impact on Interior Alaska.

Getting more information on the facts and figures has been a major thrust of the local and statewide effort in recent weeks.

When asked by Alaska leaders for the financial information about how upwards of $169 million would be saved in the next five years, however, the Air Force has been unable or unwilling to provide details.

The Air Force also projects a savings of $62 million per year in fiscal year 2016 and beyond.

Meanwhile, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley was scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Monday and Eielson today, according to an email sent to Fairbanksans working on the Eielson matter.

Donley plans to meet with local leaders today at Eielson.

The live TV show is from 7 to 8 p.m. with seven local officials discussing what they know of the Eielson plan and what it could mean to Interior Alaska. There may be taped statements from Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich. Both senators have questioned Air Force and Department of Defense officials on the lack of any materials that show where savings would take place.

The panel members in the studio will include: Jim Dodson, CEO of FEDCO; McHugh Pierre, deputy commissioner of the state of Department of Military and Veterans Affairs; Pat Gamble, president of the University of Alaska; Lisa Herbert, CEO of the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce; Wes Madden, Fairbanks Realtor; and Jeff Sharp, operations manager of ERA Alaska. Kip Harmon will be the moderator.

Eielson “hosts the only single squadron wing in the Active Duty Air Force,” a line that appears in various Air Force presentations on the matter.

 An Air Force report on complete costs of the transfer is due to be released by the end of the month.

The major reductions in personnel would happen in FY 13, with 542 military jobs moved to Anchorage, and in fiscal year 14, when 583 military jobs and 345 civilian jobs would be eliminated, the Air Force said in a document dated April 25.

•••

FOX CHILI COOKOFF: The 11th annual Fox Lions Chili Cookoff takes place June 2, with the cooks asked to register at 10 a.m. to prepare their entries.

There will be a public tasting from 1 to 3 p.m. that day, along with gift baskets, a raffle, games for kids and other events.

The cookoff will take place at the Fox Community Center, which is the first left after the weigh station in Fox on the Steese Highway.

There were 15 cooks in the contest last year and the Lions are hoping for more this year, with proceeds helping a variety of projects.

•••

GREAT HARVEST: The Great Harvest Bread Co. bakery and cafe is to open in mid-July in the Bentley Mall Annex.

The owners of the franchise include Steve Sundborg, Alicia Sundborg, Eric Cray and Tricia Gray, who began the effort to launch the business last year.

Great Harvest will grind it own wheat daily and bake a large variety of fresh products daily. The commercial space is being remodeled in preparation for the opening, the owners say.

“We will be located in the Bentley Mall annex next to Papa John’s! We spent a lot of time looking at spaces that could house the bakery and truly feel this is one of the best spots in Fairbanks that will be convenient for everyone,” the owners said.

•••

VATICAN PERFORMANCE: Six local musicians will be part of a chorus scheduled to perform Thursday afternoon at St. Peter’s Basilica  in the  Vatican.

The “Alaskan Festival Singers,” under the direction of Byron McGilvary, will sing at a 5 p.m. Mass in the Vatican. The chorus includes musicians selected by McGilvary who live in Fairbanks, Juneau, Barrow and Anchorage, as well as in California, Texas and New York.

One of the local singers, Tom Gross, said they have been told the Pope may be present.

Gross said the local musicians have been preparing for the two-week tour since late January. The schedule includes performances in Florence, Venice and Lugano/Bellinzona.

The chorus members are to meet in Rome, rehearse Wednesday and sing at the Vatican on Thursday.

McGilvary, long a part of the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, assembled the chorus of more than three dozen singers from people he has worked with over the years.

The other Fairbanks performers are Janice Trumbull, Jami Spears, Erika Weld, Jimmy Tamai and Roscoe Beadles.

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