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St. Mary's County and USN at Pax River strengthen ties

Lexington Park, MD - A meeting held under the umbrella of "encroachment and prevention" was held at the Frank Knox Center Tuesday, April 10. This meeting was co-chaired by President of the St. Mary's County Board of Commissioners, Randy Guy [R] and the Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station Patuxent River (NAS PAX), CAPT Jason Hammond. (NAS PAX). The meeting was attended by all commissioners, unfortunately, none of the Southern Maryland Delegation could attend.

The wide-ranging briefings underscored the open dialogue and cooperation that continues to flourish between the county and NAS PAX. A major issue, which both the Navy and county have been cooperating to find solutions for is the traffic entering and leaving the base.

Sabrina Hecht, Community Planning liaison officer, and John Deatrick, director of St. Mary's County Public Works and Transportation, co-briefed a presentation updating the progress, as well as laying out plans for the future. The presentation included several changes outside the gates, including a redesign of the intersection of Route 235 and Route 4. Flyovers, HOV lanes, bus lanes, telecommuting, the return of taxi service on the base, off-site commuter parking with shuttle buses, and the county-funded completion of FDR Boulevard are all in the discussion, planning or implementation phases.

The update continued with Bill Hunt joining Hecht to brief The Air Installations Compatible Use Zone (AICUZ) and the Lexington Park Master Plan compatibility.

Chris Kaselemis, director of St. Mary's County Department of Economic Development, provided an update on the "Techport at the Airport" incubator, announcing that the University of Maryland has hired a director for the incubator, Brad Bartilson, from Texas.

North American Wave Engine Company (NAWEC) is the first tenant of the incubator. The company is engaged in the design and development of wave engines for jet propulsion applications. Funding for the incubator was provided by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) who contributed $1,989,380 and St. Mary's County which contributed $2,000,000, which was included in the fiscal year 2018 budget.

With the exponential growth of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), LCDR Joel Castillo explained the procedures to "register" for flying permission starting with the Federal Aircraft Authority (FAA) and coordinating with the air traffic controllers office on board NAS PAX. One of the key attributes of the base is the control it has over vast areas of airspace stretching from Washington, D.C. well out across the bay.

Commissioner Todd Morgan [R - District 4], addressed the possibility of a bridge from St. Mary's County to Dorchester County. Morgan said, "We do not want this bridge in St. Mary's County, it would not be in the best interest of the county or the Navy's mission.

A commissioner motion "to approve the letter of agreement between the commanding officer, NAS PAX and the Commissioners of St. Mary's County regarding coordinating the use of restricted airspace" was passed and the letter of agreement was signed by Guy and Hammond.

Hammond also addressed the upcoming air show. He anticipates a tremendous show, especially with the United States Navy's Blue Angels performing. Hammond reached out saying that volunteers would be needed as many as 450 to assist. He also noted access to the base would be unrestricted for the show but advised early arrival.

Pax River Air Expo will be held Saturday, June 2 and Sunday, June 3. Visit the event website for more information.

 Contact Martin Fairclough at m.fairclough@thebaynet.com

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