15 Feb 2016
- By Laila Younis-Boyer
TINIAN — While some people wondered whether to join the hot pepper eating contest at the Tinian Hot Pepper Festival on Saturday, several residents also chewed on the military’s recent decision to have the divert airfield here.
And most said while they do have concerns, it is a good thing.
The 12th Annual Tinian Hot Pepper Festival was well underway with the Biking Association of Tinian’s 65K race completed and most booths opened to sell local crafts, products and the island’s famous hot peppers.
Picnic tables filled up with families and friends listening to dignitaries making their welcoming remarks as part of the opening ceremonies. They included acting Gov. Victor Hocog, Tinian Mayor Joey Patrick San Nicolas, Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Perry Tenorio and Tinian Municipal Council Chairman Ray Cing.
On Thursday, Lt. Gen. Anthony Crutchfield, deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Command, and Rear Adm. Babette Bolivar, commander, Joint Region Marianas, announced the decision to have the divert airfield on Tinian.
Asked for comment on Saturday, several Tinian residents shied away, asking that the hot topic be sent to the other tables.
At one of the tables, Keith Nabors said: “It is going to help us in the long run. We are trying to get more charter flights to help with our casino industry so the improvements they plan to make at the airport I think are improvements that are headed in the right way.”
He added, “As long as they stay with their promise of the eight-week period, which is two months out of the year for training, I don’t see it as a problem.”
Tinian’s Board of Education member, Florine M. Hofschneider, also welcomes the development, but she would like to see that all military training and exercises stay on the northern tip of the island.
“We also need to start working on how it is going to affect the community and try to mitigate the impact,” she said. “I had a chance to visit the Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan and they had to double the windows in the schools to mitigate the noise from the airfield.”
Tinian Health Center nurse practitioner Arley Long said she would rather have the divert air field instead of the earlier proposed live-fire ranges.
With the divert airfield, “most likely they are going to build a base and add improvements that would be beneficial for the island,” she said.
“Any negotiation with the military should be beneficial for the island, whether it is getting a new school gymnasium or improving the hospital or expanding the growth of our community — anytime that is managed well, it will be good for us.”
For his part, Tinian Mayor San Nicolas said his office is preparing an official statement, but did say he had “mixed feelings” about the military’s announcement.