Beaufort officials are looking at ways to cooperate, share services and reduce costs with Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort
It's a timely conversation given there is talk in Washington about potential military base reductions or closures beginning in 2013.
The idea emerged during city council's Tuesday work session and centered on ways MCAS and Beaufort could benefit from cooperating on fire services, schools and maintenance, among other things.
"How can we help you (the base) be the best you can be while you help us be the best economically viable community we can be?" City Manager Scott Dadson asked
The Pentagon must trim $487 billion from its budget during the next decade, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The Base Realignment and Closure Commission will make recommendations on closing or changing the roles of military bases across the country.
Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, MCAS and Naval Hospital Beaufort were spared during five previous BRAC reductions.
Dadson and Alice Howard, who works at the air station and is the Zoning Board of Appeals chairwoman, attended a September conference in Monterey, Calif., in which officials discussed its City-Base program in which it has joint services agreements with three military bases.
For example, Monterey has a $7-million annual agreement to provide operation services, saving the bases 21 percent more than if they used private or federal contractors, Dadson said. Among those services are maintenance, fire protection and stormwater management.
In Beaufort, the objective is to find ways to keep local military bases competitive and cost-efficient.
One of the challenges board members discussed was the frequent turn-over of commanding officers, but Mayor Billy Keyserling said Col. Brian Murtha, the air station's current commanding officer, is "a little more talkative" about cooperation.
"If you think about it, there's got to be some ways that we can work together to lighten his load," Keyserling said.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.