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Open house focusing on noise from NAS Meridian

MERIDIAN, Miss. — Faye Hatcher's family has lived on Fred Clayton Road since the 1840s so the roots of her clan run deep into the red clay of northern Lauderdale County.

In 1962, Naval Air Station Meridian was commissioned as a training base for United States Navy and Marine Corps aviators. Hatcher figures it was the base that encroached on her family and that they, the U.S. Navy, should do something about the noise that all but puts a stop to any sort of enjoyable living experience in the area.

"You can't do anything outside when they are flying," Hatcher said. "The noise is just too much."

Hatcher, and many of her neighbors, attended an open house Monday evening at Northeast Lauderdale Middle School on Highway 39 North. The open house was scheduled to show residents the Noise and Accident Potential Zones around McCain Field at NAS Meridian and Joe Williams Field in Kemper County so that they can take steps to protect themselves, base officials announced.

Homes are being built under the routes Navy jets use in Lauderdale and Kemper counties to get to and from runways, creating safety and noise issues being addressed in the open houses.

Jim Copeland, community planning liaison officer for NAS Meridian, had out maps, noise monitoring study results, brochures and much more information for the residents to access. There were NAS Meridian officers on hand to answer questions. Copeland was encouraged that the two sides of the issue were actually talking, which is something that hadn't been done in years past.

"Getting the two sides together is a good start," Copeland said. "We are obligated to give out this information to the public and for the two sides to be here in the same room is encouraging."

David and Linda Fluker built their home near Hatcher's homestead in 1972. They said in the beginning, when the base flew the Buckeyes, the noise wasn't that bad but now with the stronger Rolls Royce engines of the T-45 Goshawks it is to the point you can't carry on a conversation outside, much less do any work.

"The noise is unbearable," David Fluker said.

"We don't have anything against the Navy," Linda Fluker added. "We just want them to go to the other field."

Joe Williams Field in Kemper County was also part of the recent studies that were completed. Commander Erik Greve, operations commander of Training Air Wing One at NAS Meridian, said the air operations do utilize Joe Williams Field as much as possible but over the last 18 months the field has been undergoing renovations and a shortage of air traffic controllers to man the tower at the field has hampered operations there.

"The fact is we have entirely too much traffic for one field to handle," Greve said "We need both fields. At the same time we are trying to utilize Joe Williams Field as much as possible to help ease the residents' concerns, as well as using the flight simulators more."

Greve said every nine to 10 months a new class of potential Navy and Marine Corps aviators comes through NAS Meridian to get their Wings of Gold. He said NAS Meridian averages 190,000 operations per year. That makes the base one of the busiest in the entire Navy structure.

In 1962, a total of 179 homes surrounded McCain and Joe Williams Fields; now there are 495 homes in that same area, according to a base press release.

"We are right in their turning lane," David Fluker said. "You can stand in my carport and the blast from those big engines comes right down the driveway. Man, it's loud."
 

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