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MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Misawa city officials want the U.S. military’s help in case they suffer a water supply failure like the one that left nearly 240,000 off-base residents in nearby towns dry in January.

Mayor Kazumasa Taneichi made the request to 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. David Stilwell during an annual community relations advisory council meeting Wednesday at the Misawa International Center.

Stilwell told Taneichi and other city representatives he wanted to arrange additional meetings to have the "experts" see what assistance the base could provide from its own internal water system.

One challenge, Stilwell predicted, would be figuring out how to link the base and city systems. He also warned that while the base had some "excess capacity," it couldn’t completely support local communities in the event of a full water loss. He also added that January’s situation affected Japanese base employees and Americans who were living in shortage areas.

Officials with the Hachinohe Regional Water Supply Corp. said Wednesday that the Jan. 1-6 water outage was caused by a crack in a nearly 4-foot diameter pipe that pulls water from the Mabechi River to a water purification plant. It affected more than 92,000 households in six towns and one city, but not Misawa city.

Stilwell told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday afternoon that the yearly meeting offers a formal way for leaders to discuss concerns. And the presence of the press, he pointed out, allows the public to see that their elected politicians are bringing community concerns to the base.

Stilwell brought his own area of concern to the meeting, asking the city for a continued push to keep off-base streets clear of snow and ice, especially given this year’s heavy snowfall. City officials promised to continue to keep a close eye on the streets and to use a "snow-removing agent," such as sand or salt.

Stilwell also stressed to the Japanese leaders his command’s efforts to keep off-base "incidents and accidents" in check, including working with local bar owners to ensure responsible behavior on everyone’s behalf.

Stars and Stripes reporter Hana Kusumoto contributed to this story.

Community concernsAmong other issues Misawa city officials raised with 35th Fighter Wing commander Col. David Stilwell:

Promoting more use of the city airport:

City officials asked Stilwell to promote airport use with the on-base community, and said they were working on developing better package tours and a free parking lot. Stilwell said recent changes in the "economic climate" could have resulted in more base residents staying home instead of traveling and limited funding meant fewer official flights in 2008. But, he said, the addition of direct flights to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport could result in more travelers.

Illegally dumping trash off base:

City officials recorded five incidents of U.S. personnel living off base who illegally dumped their garbage last year. Stilwell highlighted on-base efforts to educate those who live off base on proper procedures for throwing away their garbage. He also asked the city to have Japanese landlords address the issue immediately so proper steps could be taken to solve the problem.

Fine-tuning a gate security project

A force-protection update at the main gate has left some business owners upset that customers cannot access their stores, according to city officials. They’ve suggested opening three 3-foot-wide spaces in the guardrails for customers to walk through and one 12-foot-wide gate so vehicles can deliver goods. Stilwell said the base will continue to work with the owners about access.

Developing old railroad bed into a trail

City officials want the base, or the Japanese government, to turn a 1.2-mile stretch of railroad tracks that once was used to supply the base into a walking trail. Stilwell suggested continued meetings to seek a resolution.


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