Enid News: Civic leaders talk in D.C.

Mar 10, 2011
In The News

ENID — Improvements to Vance Air Force Base, school renovations and the planned transformation of downtown Enid were among the topics a group of civic leaders discussed Wednesday with members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation.

Greater Enid Chamber of Commerce’s annual two-day visit to Washington, D.C., concluded Wednesday evening with a reception for the state’s congressional delegation, as well as a group of military leaders, including Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.

Wednesday’s meetings with Oklahoma’s congressional delegation took place in the new Capitol Visitor’s Center. The chamber group met with Oklahoma senators Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, as well as representatives Dan Boren, James Lankford and Frank Lucas.

Among the items highlighted by the chamber group were continuing efforts by the community to support Vance, including projects like the improvement of Wheat Capital Road, a redundant water system for the base and the donation of land over the years for base expansion.

In addition, quality-of-life issues like Enid’s nearly $100 million school bond issue and the $20 million downtown Renaissance project were discussed, said Jon Blankenship, chamber president and chief executive officer.

Another topic of discussion was the proposed legislation that would prevent the Environment Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources.

“Our delegation is all opposed to those regulations,” said Blankenship. “They are as concerned as we are about the negative impact that could have on key areas of our economy, like power plants and, for us, the fertilizer plant. They are committed to fighting that fight against the EPA.”

Dan Ohnesorge, manager of Enid Woodring Regional Airport, briefed the delegation on the upcoming joint-use hangar project that will shelter both military and civilian aircraft.

For their part, the congressmen all spoke of the “runaway deficit and the urgent need to get that under control,” said Blankenship. “The entire Oklahoma congressional delegation is committed to doing exactly that. That issue is first and foremost in their minds.”

Efforts to trim the federal deficit and eliminate congressional earmarks could impact the funding of future projects at Vance, Blankenship said. Many projects at Vance in the past decade have been funded through congressional add-ons to military spending bills.

“That speaks to the importance of what we have done in the last 10 years, with over $100 million of mission-critical projects at Vance,” he said. “In this budgetary environment it will be increasingly difficult. But we may have to take a different approach than we have in the past, maybe with more direct oversight by the Department of Defense.”

“The tune of the discussions was that there will be some tough decisions ahead,” said Ohnesorge. “We understand that tough decisions need to be made and there will be some sacrifices up ahead.”

Overall, both men said, the trip was a success.

“It was very productive,” Ohnesorge said. “It is always good to meet face-to-face with military leadership and our elected officials, as well.”

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