Madison Common Council passes alternate resolution on F-35 jets at Truax Field

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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Early Wednesday morning, over eight hours after the meeting started, the Madison Common Council passed an alternate resolution on the possibility of F-35 jets coming to Truax Field in Madison.

The Air Force will make the final decision on whether to move the F-35 jets to Madison, but several wanted the council to give its input on bring the jets to Truax.

The city council debated two resolutions at the meeting, the original resolution and the alternate.

The original resolution asked the National Guard to reconsider bringing the F-35 jets Truax Field as a preferred location, citing concerns over the impact the jets would have on low-income communities, like noise issues and pollution.

The alternate resolution asked for more information before reconsidering Madison as a location for the F-35 jets. The resolution would ask the Air Force to reconsider Truax Field only if the final environmental impact statement does not have strategies to fix some issues, like the noise from the F-35 jets.

Ultimately, the council decided and approved on the alternate resolution. There was a 10-10 vote tie on whether to take up the alternate resolution instead of the original, with Mayor Satya Rhode-Conway breaking the tie. Then, after some language changes to the alternate, the council voted 16-3 with one abstention to approve the alternate resolution.

Approximately 40 people plus Madison alders spoke during the meeting, voicing their concerns and asking questions about moving the jets to Truax Field.

The proposal to bring F-35's to Truax Field has stirred controversy, with those living near the air field saying the jets will be too noisy for the area.

Others point to the number of jobs the proposed expansion is expected to bring to Madison.

Officials from the Wisconsin Air National Guard also attended, giving an overview of the F-35 plan and answering questions. They maintained that bringing F-35s to the base will have barely any noticeable impact on the environment, while also creating economy opportunities.

In a release Tuesday, Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway called for careful consideration regarding the F-35s.

“Madison has lived with, and benefited from, the Dane County Airport and the Truax Air National Guard Base for decades,” Rhodes-Conway said in the release.

However, Rhodes-Conway says she is “very disappointed” in what she calls the Guard’s failure to provide adequate information about the project.

“The sound study says these new, more powerful planes would only engage in afterburner takeoffs 5% of the time (rather than 60%), which suggests less noise. The Air Force’s use of the Day Night Average Sound Level (DNL) metric suggests more noise, yet their Sound Exposure Level (SEL) chart indicates little change at the locations of most concern to the community,” Rhodes-Conway said.

The mayor called the Guard to take into consideration all the potentially adverse effects of the project.

“They should re-evaluate the selection of Truax Field as a preferred location if the final EIS does not respond to these concerns and provide strategies to affirmatively mitigate the noise and other detrimental impacts of siting F-35s at Truax Field,” Rhodes-Conway said.

Congressman Mike Pocan called the Air Force to conduct more tests regarding noise made by the F-35s.

Madison's Truax Field is one of five locations for 18 F-35 jets. Officials said the delivery of the first F-35As to one of those locations could be as early as 2023, and the last is scheduled to be completed by 2024.

The jets would replace the F-16's and fly more than 6,220 operations a year.

A draft of the environmental impact study (EIS) was recently released, and shows that more 1,000 people will be impacted. To read a summary of the EIS, click here. According to the EIS, roughly 200 acres of residential land near the airport would be exposed to sound above the 65-decibel threshold, which is considered unsuitable for residential use.

The final environmental impact study is expected to be published in January 2020.