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Hurdles slow G-RAMP's pace | News

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Hurdles slow G-RAMP's pace
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14 years ago, a former Warner Robins mayor came up with an idea: use 91 acres of city-owned property adjacent to Robins Air Force Base to develop private industry. The businesses would add jobs and complement base missions.

Since then, the city has spent more than $230,000 toward the effort, known as G-RAMP. That stands for Georgia-Robins Aerospace Maintenance Partnership.

Years later, the land, on the northwest corner of the base, is still vacant. It looks much the same as when the idea came about.

The vast majority of people driving the perimeter road of Robins would never notice the headstones just behind the fence.

The Thomas & Sullivan Cemetery sits in the shadows cast by looming Air Force hangars.

Redevelopment Agency Director for the city said on a recent afternoon, "It's been around long before we have."

Walking around the property, Lee said the graves date to the 1800s.

He believes there are others, possibly unmarked burial grounds for slaves from years before that.

Pointing, he said, "This stake right here is where the boundaries end."



A land study on the property, finished a few years ago

, told Lee and potential developers that they can't disturb the dead, but they can build around them.

In fact, the city has all the go-aheads, from environmental surveys to clearance from the Air Force, to allow development on 24 of the 91 city-owned acres.

It just hasn't happened.

Mayor Randy Toms said, "It's just sitting there and everybody's wondering, or must be wondering, why nothing's being done out there."

Toms says the explanation for stalled progress gets complicated.

To start, there's no access from the property to the Robins runway, and no agreement in place from the Air Force saying private planes could share its use. That's something aerospace or commercial aircraft companies would likely require to consider the location.

However, Retired Lt. General Charles Stunner, now head of the 21st Century Partnership, says that's a possibility, and they're exploring it.

Stenner said, "We need to identify the critical path. It's a process."

In the past month, Stenner says the Partnership brought on Jack Metz, a retired Air Force planner, to put the pieces in place that would make sharing Robins runway possible.

Partnerships like G-RAMP have happened at bases across the country, including the nation's two other Air Logistics Complexes: Tinker in Oklahoma and Hill in Utah. Both have established public-private partnerships that create jobs, allow industry to grow and support their installation's missions.

Toms said, "It probably frustrates me a little that we're not already there."

He said there's no one actively recruiting industry to the site, and admits time is of the essence.

Those environmental studies the city paid for several years ago expire in 2016. If no development occurs, they have to be redone.

Toms said, "I don't think anyone did anything wrong or unwise in getting the property and getting all the permits done. In the long run, I think were going to be grateful."

That promise and prospect of jobs keeps the city investing in what's possible.

They just started another $23,000 study to tell them if all 91 acres, not just the 24 already approved, can be developed.

Much of it is wetlands, and environmental red-tape surrounds disturbing such land.

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Lee said, "This is a phase project. It's not gonna happen overnight."



At least eight other Central Georgia governments

contributed to the $200,000 environmental impact study of the site. That was originated in 2009.

At the time, all those involved said they recognized G-RAMP's potential for job creation, as well as it's value to the future of Robins.


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