Welcome to the RAB: Oscoda community reps attend orientation, site tour

  • Published
  • By Breanne Humphreys
  • AFCEC Public Affairs
Newly selected members of the Wurtsmith Restoration Advisory Board gathered together for the first time Aug. 2 at the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, to learn about their role representing the Oscoda-area community in environmental restoration activities at the former base.

“The best representation is someone with a vested interest,” said Matt Marrs, the Air Force Civil Engineer Center’s base environmental coordinator for the Wurtsmith project. “RABs ensure community interests and concerns are represented by giving them a seat—or in this case nine—at the table to discuss restoration activities with decision makers.”

The advisory group is comprised of eight government and nine community stakeholders tasked with enabling community involvement and providing input in the environmental restoration process for the former base. Community RAB members, as well as eight alternates, were nominated for positions by a local, three-person selection committee.

“We have a diverse group of people representing our community,” said Bill Palmer, RAB selection committee member. “I’m encouraged by their eagerness to learn and serve the community.”

Palmer joined RAB members for an Air Force-led site tour following orientation.

“I thought it was very helpful to see up close one of the actual pumping facilities and see the size and magnitude of the equipment and the process,” Palmer said. “Overall I thought it was a very good meeting.”

Jim Davis and his family began visiting Oscoda in 1994. He became a resident last year and applied for a position on the RAB to stay on top of issues that concern him and his fellow community members, he said.

“We got some good information today, Davis said. “It was a good start—but we need to keep that momentum going.”

The highly technical nature of the information discussed at RAB meetings poses a challenge for both government officials and community members.

Robert Tasior, Oscoda resident and newly appointed RAB member, challenged Air Force officials and regulators to present timely, accurate information to the RAB in layman terms.

“I want the professionals to break it down in a way that I can communicate to all members of the community,” he said. “Everyone has a different background, education level… and it’s my job to relay information to my fellow community members.”

The Air Force plans to conduct another RAB training event in September to ensure community representatives feel comfortable with their knowledge base, Marrs said.