City withdraws MARSOC memorandum of understanding

by | November 6, 2017 6:12 am

Reported military training exercises conducted by a private contractor will not take place in Sparta

After a lengthy exchange of comments and sharply pointed criticism by the mayor, city officials voted on Nov. 2 to rescind a memorandum of understanding with the United States Marine Forces and the Special Operations Command that would have allowed military training exercises to be conducted within the city limits of Sparta.

During the city’s Oct. 5, 2017, board meeting, Al Parker, a representative of VATC, which is a private military training contractor, presented a request to the city to allow MARSOC (United States Marine Forces and the Special Operations Command) to conduct military training exercises within the city limits of Sparta.

According to information obtained during previous city meetings, these exercises would include a wide array of military equipment, including tactical vehicles and helicopters. The training exercises would be conducted between 6 p.m. and midnight at any point over the next three years.

During the Oct. 5 meeting, the city board voted to approve entering into the memorandum of understanding with MARSOC. The White County Board of Commissioners was presented with a similar memorandum, but after receiving a high volume of questions and concerns from residents, the county did not take any action.

Under the old business portion of the city’s Nov. 2 meeting, Alderman Jerry Lowery presented a motion to rescind the memorandum of understanding because of concerns raised by residents.

“The MARSOC agreement – after looking over this and talking with a lot of people and watching what the county [commission] on how they responded to it, which the county refused to allow them to come inside the county,” stated Lowery. “ I don’t know how this works with the county refusing and we are still allowing it. I don’t know how this plays out. Chris [Dorsey], how does that work?”

City of Sparta Administrator Chris Dorsey responded.

“My guess is that you’re correct sir,” he said. “If the county doesn’t do it [enter into the MOU] by default, with the city being an entity within the county, I don’t think we will be able to do it.”

Alderman Dr. Chad Griffin said, “I thought about this, too. This has caused so much anxiety for this community. I think we should just withdraw from this agreement.”

After Griffin made his remark, Lowery then made a motion to rescind the MARSOC memorandum of understanding, which was then seconded by Griffin.

“After looking at this contract, you don’t have an official government contract with writing that’s been scratched out and replaced without initials,” said Lowery. “That’s just bad business. Just an example, they have scratched out county and wrote in city. We can’t do business like that. You’re right Chad [Griffin], it has created so much anxiety. It’s the number one thing that people are hitting me with.”

Mayor Jeff Young stated, “I would like to add before we vote, I’ve had several calls on this also. Some were for it, and some were against it. We want to be supportive of our troops, both active and retired. I’ve spoken with Chris [Dorsey] a couple of times. They [VATC] have the same MOU with about 40 other cities.

Young continued, “I hate to throw names out, but my personal opinion is that you have one person being a county commissioner that created all this confusion. It’s not the city or county board members’ place to write letters to the editor to absolutely create confusion and chaos, especially when you have the credentials certain people do. That’s exactly the last thing I want, for anyone on our city board or county board to make a comment or put a letter in the paper to completely say stuff that’s false and saying stuff that’s going to do nothing but to scare the tar out of people. It’s completely unnecessary and irresponsible.”

After comments were made about the motion, the board voted to rescind the MARSOC memorandum of understanding. Vice Mayor Jim Floyd cast the only “no” vote.

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