Print Camp Verde safe from spy balloons
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 02 March 2011 00:00

The Camp Verde Town Council in January gave the green light to a defense contractor to set up shop in town limits.

The company, Arizona-based Dateland Proving Grounds, wanted to use 15 acres of land to train crews in the use of aerostats, large balloons that can be outfitted with cameras and other sensors designed primarily for use by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

It turns out the thumbs up from the Town Council was all for nothing.

In a Feb. 22 letter to the town, Dateland representative Doug Powell wrote his company will not be coming to Camp Verde after all.

The move comes after two public meetings before the Camp Verde Planning and Zoning Commission and the Town Council that saw crowds of people from towns across the region both very vocally opposed to the company’s plan and in favor of it.

Much of the opposition cited privacy concerns about the idea of a balloon with cameras floating in the air high above the town.

Many of those in favor cited the role balloons like this play in keeping American soldiers safe and how bringing any amount of new industry to town would be a good thing.

The military started using aerostats after Taliban fighters temporarily managed to overrun one of the U.S. Army’s forward operating bases in Afghanistan. The base had no persistent surveillance capabilities; the Army decided a similar incident wasn’t going to happen again.

The company had been looking at 15 acres of land owned by the Camp Verde Sanitary District but leased to the town near the town’s undeveloped parkland east of the White Bridge and north of State Route 260.

“I wanted to thank you, the council and the people of Camp Verde for your support regarding our potential development plan in Camp Verde,” Powell wrote. “Over the course of this process, and in my numerous travels to and from Camp Verde, it has allowed me to discover some of the best attributes of your town.”

Those attributes weren’t enough to get the company to commit to setting up operations in Camp Verde for the next few years.

“Dateland Proving Grounds has decided to pursue lease/purchase options in less populated, higher elevation locations for its potential aerostat test center,” Powell wrote.

There’s not much the town can do about this development, though a few Town Council members expressed their relief last week that if Dateland won’t be coming to town, it was the company’s decision and not the local government’s.