Two cities, one controversial topic Monday night: the F-35. Vermont is one of a handful of states that could get the military's newest fighter jet.
Opponents say it is too loud and will wage a war on property values. Supporters argue it's an economic engine and will save jobs.
Monday, dozens packed into Contois Auditorium for Burlington's City Council meeting. It's one of the last opportunities they will have to weigh in on the newest fighter plane. The Green Mountain State is on the short list of places it could land.
"The economics speak for themselves, $50 million worth of payroll, 1,100 jobs in a time when I think we should support that," said Burlington resident Ernie Pomerleau as he addressed the council.
But, most at the meeting voiced concern about higher noise levels, feeding the military industrial complex, and relying on a plane that's run into several developmental roadblocks.
"I urge you to consider whether that's acceptable for an area that's chock full of houses, schools, children, churches, businesses, vets, and senior centers," said South Burlington resident James Marc Leas. Burlington resident Sojun Godfrey agreed, "the only people trying to bring weapons of mass destruction into Vermont is the federal government, we should be opposed to this, you should be opposed to this."
The council weighed three possible resolutions Monday in response to the Air Force's proposal to bring in the new planes. One option supported bringing in the plane, another did the opposite. Ultimately, the split council settled on middle ground, resolving to ask the Air Force a variety of follow up questions.
Just a few miles away in South Burlington, the debate emerged despite not being on the city council agenda. Led by chairwoman, and former Air Force Col., Rosanne Greco, the council voted in May to speak out against the new plane. F-35 proponents in the area haven't given up.
"I'm going to submit these petitions, we have over 1,600 names, who signed the petition to encourage you to reconsider," said South Burlington resident Gary Farreell as he addressed the council.
F-35 critics delivered letters of their own in Burlington. Ultimately, neither the cities nor their residents have much more than symbolic say in the matter. That decision is still up the Air Force.
The Burlington city council settled a few other matters late Monday. It approved Mayor Weinberger's plans to add another aide through office reorganization as well as to accept a variety of appointment decisions.
On another controversial topic, the council also voted to explore alternate route options for the Champlain Parkway.
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