Ravenna -- More than 100 area residents turned out Aug. 5 at Ravenna High School to learn and comment on the possible choice of Camp Ravenna, the former ammunition plant east of Ravenna, as the site for an as-yet unfunded ballistic missile interceptor base.
The Missile Defense Agency of the Department of Defense is conducting an environmental impact study of the Portage County site, one of four on the list.
The former Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant is now Camp Ravenna, a 21,000-acre training center operated by the Ohio Army National Guard on land leased from the federal government. The other potential sites are in southern Michigan, northern New York and western Maine.
The missiles, 55 feet long and about 4 feet wide and fueled by solid propellent, are designed to protect against ballistic missiles launched from up to 10,000 kilometers by hitting the incoming missile. The system has had at least nine successful test flights.
The system is aimed at defending against potential threats from nations such as North Korea and Iran.
Currently, there are two sites operational for a ground-based Midcourse Defense System, at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., with 30 interceptors on line and another 14 to be added by 2017.
Lt. Col. Chris Snipes, program manager, said about 600 acres would be needed to house the entire missile defense complex, including underground silos for the interceptors and control buildings.
He said plans are for the base to have 20 silos, with the possibility to grow to 60. The complex's acreage would increase to more than 900 to fit the added silos. The proposed site would be west of Camp Ravenna's main gate off Route 5.
Snipes stressed that no decision has been made on a site. He said the Missile Defense Agency is conducting an environmental study to be ready in the event the base is funded.
LT. COL. ED Meade, commander of Camp Ravenna, said it is too early to tell what effect a missile site would have on the camp's activities as a training center.
Some people attending the gathering are in favor of building a missile site, hoping for jobs and a boost to the economy. Others are worried about a missile base making Portage County a target.
Joseph Mosyjowski of Randolph was one of several people at the forum with bull's-eye targets taped to their chests.
He said he was wearing it "because we're all targets if they build this in Portage County. We're the highest populated area out of the four sites they're considering."
"This Congress should take half of the money for this program and just hand it to the politically connected military contractors and build nothing, and then take the other half and fund rebuilding Akron's combined sewer system and give us clean water, something we desperately need in this state. And it'll create more jobs," Mosyjowski said.
Diana Kane of Ravenna said she was there to learn more about the project, but was leaning to favoring it.
Officials from the Missile Defense Agency noted the Department of Defense is doing the studies at the direction of Congress. No money has been allocated to build an interceptor base and no authorization to build such a base has been given.
Mary Greer of Shalersville was gathering signatures in front of the school from people opposed to having the site in Portage County.
Written comments about the project will be accepted until Sept. 14.
Comments can be submitted via e-mail to MDA.CIS.EIS@BV.com or by mail at Black &Veatch Special Projects Corp., Attn: MDACIS EIS, 6601 College Blvd., Overland Park, Kan. 66211-1504 and must be postmarked or received by Sept. 14.
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4154