Busy summer planned at Camp Ripley

Residents can expect to hear lots of noise as airmen and artillery train

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

Although it won’t be as busy at Camp Ripley as it was last year, Post Commander Col. Scott St. Sauver said the community will notice the activity as thousands converge on the military base for training.

St. Sauver told the Little Falls City Council during the annual economic impact report given to local government entities, that Camp Ripley’s mission hasn’t changed.

The primary mission continues to be to train soldiers and airmen to make them ready “to do our nation’s bidding,” he said.

But that’s just one mission. The second is working with state and local law enforcement and emergency service providers in training exercises. That mission has grown dramatically, he said.

During the week, state highway patrol was at Camp Ripley doing inservice and rookie school, as well as, “A lot of other spring training with law enforcement agencies,” he said.

The third part is one of the most important to the city — the economic impact Camp Ripley has on the community.

In May, 7,985 military service members will train at Camp and 1,530 civilians. One unit has deployed to Afghanistan, another unit is in premobilization. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fish and Wildlife Serivce will be working on inservice.

St. Sauver is waiting for the weather to cooperate to do a controlled burn on 14,000 acres, to lessen the risk of fires starting on a range during the training season.

An uncontrolled fire, he said, is one of his biggest fears. All of the permits are in place and ready to go, he said, as are theDNR and local fire control teams.

“Control burns are going to be a little tough,” he said. “My flash to bag time is going to be pretty tight. About the time the snow is gone, it’s going to green up. We’re ready to go, it’s matter of having right conditions to burn 14,000 acres, so we don’t have to fight fire all summer long.”

The public will be made aware of when the burning will occur. “When we burn 6,000 – 7,000 acres, it’s a pretty big smoke cloud,” he said.

The busiest month at Camp will be June, when the numbers increase to 9,099 military and drop a bit to 1,081 for civilian training.

Area residents can expect to hear noise on the ground and in the air as artillery units and combat aviation brigades train. The aviation brigades will be working with Shinooks and double-bladed helicopters as well as air ambulances, and will use the Highway 371 corridor and Highway 10 flight path, St. Sauver said.

In July, it calms down a bit after the fourth, he said, as military numbers drop to 6,192 and civilian to 665. But the units will be artillery, so it will be noisy. And all the equipment will be transferred to Camp Ripley.

“Watch roads and you’ll see whole lot of heavy equipment,” he said. Bradley fighting vehicles all getting ready to be shipped out.

Equipment for the National Guard has been modernized over the course of the war. “And that’s the equipment those soldiers need to train on for the future,” he said.

A team from New Jersey will come for mobilization training to work on water purification on the river. “They don’t get a lot of training on fast-water rivers,” he said.

In August, the numbers stay steady at 7,490 military and 650 civilian, but it will be more artillery training.

“We’re not going to give you a break,” said St. Sauver. “We’re going to shoot artillery throughout three months.”

Cuts because of sequestration — 382 federal employees are expected to be furloughed, although for how long is not known — will affect the local community he said.

So, too, support of local civilian activities has been diminished locally and nationwide, until the budget situatuation is figured out.

But the numbers for Camp Ripley economic impact are solid, he said, “Right where I want them to be; right where they were projected.”

Its total economic impact  breaks down into $64 million payroll; $45 million for military retirees; $27.6 million for projects, $6,925 for financial assistance; local contracts make up $3.23 million; utilities $1.42 million, food $766,934; Army Compatible Use Buffer $1.04 million for a total of $143.67 million. Using a multiplier index of 2.1591, the total economic impact is calculated at $310 million.

“We’re very solid and our numbers in the next year are looking OK,” he said.

Little Falls City Council Briefs

During its work session Monday, the Little Falls City Council:

• Informed Adam Traut of Charter Communications that the city ordinance stating soliciting can take place until 6 p.m. could not be extended to 8 p.m. as he requested;

• Decided to consult with the city attorney regarding reimbursing a resident whose vehicle was damaged by a city snow plow while plowing snow. City Administrator Dan Vogt said the League of Minnesota Cities said if there was no negligence on the part of the snow plow driver, the city had no responsibility although the Council could approve paying for some or all of the damage;

• Tabled discussion on parking restrictions in the city to accommodate snow plowing with a plan to hold a public input meeting offering several ideas;

• Agreed it was a good idea to grant a request to designate a handicapped parking area close to the Pine Grove shelter building;

• Learned from Public Works Director Jerry Lochner that it was not possible to have a pile of salt and sand near City Hall for residents to use on their sidewalks, as the pile would have to stay well away from city wells to prevent pollution. All the city’s wells are located near City Hall;

• Learned from Vogt, who researched a complaint from Robin Hensel about helicopters landing at St. Gabriel’s Hospital and polluting the air in her home, that the city had no control over helicopters landing at St. Gabriel’s Hospital because the city cannot put restrictions on  emergency medical services; and

• Learned that all committees must keep minutes and a copy of the agenda must be made available to the public. In addition, all public meetings can be videotaped.

During its regular meeting, the Council:

• Approved a $25 stipend to employees who currently have city cell phones, saving $5,000 annually. The employees, 11 police officers and four Public Works employees, would then use their  personal cell phones and discontinue use of cell phones provided and paid for by the city;

• Approved the $2,600 low bid from City Sanitary Commercial Service for spring brush and leaf collection to be held Saturday, May 11;

• Heard a petition from Hensel to show where the Heritage Preservation Committee (HPC) committee minutes reflect the discussion of planning “2013 planned activities” referred to by Don Opatz during a Council meeting;

• Heard a petition from resident Theresa Skorseth, asking that the Council set aside the fourth week of June as Peace and Diversity Week, to be celebrated with programs and activities organized and hosted by interested citizens/groups and open to the public; and

• Denied a request from Hensel and Skorseth to make a presentation at a regular Council meeting equal in time to the presentation made by Col. St. Sauver of Camp Ripley, to respond to items in his presentation. Council member Loren Boyum said it was a Council meeting, not a town hall meeting.

The Council’s next regular meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m., Monday, May 6, at City Hall.