Hearing for ChamTech continues Wednesday
November 12, 2010
Officials expect a crowd on Wednesday when the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission discusses a proposal to build a military and law enforcement training facility in the North Summit area.
The hearing is scheduled at 7 p.m. at the County Courthouse, 60 N. Main Street in Coalville.
The proposal has been controversial because opponents question whether those who will be training at the facility would accidentally start fires and pollute the water. Utah-based ChamTech Enterprises is seeking a permit to build the training grounds on a remote stretch of rangeland northeast of the unincorporated town of Echo.
Some of what soldiers need to know in order to survive deadly war zones is not taught during basic training, ChamTech partner Eric Hernandez said.
"They don’t teach you exactly what you need to know," Hernandez said.
Those who train near Echo would learn survival skills to augment what they practice on base, he explained.
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"We’re bringing an experience that can’t be taught," Hernandez said.
The training exercises would "focus on in-the-field military training, including vehicle and sniper training, use of communications equipment, surveillance and counter surveillance techniques for small groups."
Maintaining battle skills requires some members of the military to expand their training throughout their careers, ChamTech attorney Kristin Vazquez said.
"These guys in some respects are required to take continuing education," Vazquez explained.
But critics have asked ChamTech officials to release information about contracts they may have to provide training for government agencies.
"The reality is, it doesn’t exist yet because these guys are not in business," Planning Commissioner Tom Clyde said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "They don’t have contracts with anybody because they don’t have a training facility yet. They can’t get the contracts until they have the training facility and we’re looking at them and saying we’re not sure we want to give them the permit for the training facility until we know who their contracts are with."
ChamTech officials claim that most of their clients will be military and law enforcement, Clyde said.
"That may be who they are hoping to attract but my sense is that once they get the business up and running, all of the sudden they have a great big overhead expense looking them in the eyes every month and they’ll probably have to take who they can get," Clyde explained. "When that happens I don’t know how we avoid it becoming a militia training ground."
One member of the Eastern Summit County Planning Commission questioned whether ChamTech "is a front for Blackwater," Clyde said.
"This kind of permit largely hinges on whether there are overall community benefits, and I’m still not seeing many," Clyde said.
One of his biggest concerns is the cost to Summit County for responding to fires and medical emergencies on the site.
"I think it creates a burden on the community as a whole rather than a benefit, particularly given the fact that it’s greenbelt property and pays almost nothing in property taxes," Clyde said about the agricultural ground. "The total tax bill on the property is under $500 per year so if we have to the get the sheriff and the search-and-rescue guys and a couple of fire department vehicles up there even once, that’s the entire tax budget for the year for that property."
The site is roughly 2,500 acres and machine guns and explosives would likely be banned if the ChamTech permit is approved.
The matter is slated for a possible decision from the Planning Commission on Wednesday. But Clyde said he is undecided.
"It’s an absolutely huge site and it’s pretty darn remote," Clyde said. "It’s a big as the ski areas almost. You look at that and you’ve got 12 guys on ATVs doing survival training on 2,500 acres, so what. What’s the big deal with that?"
He insisted the Planning Commission would fairly consider the ChamTech proposal.
"I admire the guys for trying to build a business in this economy and trying to make it work," Clyde said. "They’ve got a lot of skin in this one and it’s important to me that whether it is approved or not that they feel like they got a complete and fair hearing."