Hairfield Tract transfer still stalled

Paperwork buried in Army bureaucracy

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Harnett County officials awaiting the acquisition of a tract of land near Overhills High School is learning firsthand the old military saying “hurry-up and wait” is real.

For the last 20 years, officials at Fort Bragg have been promising to hand over 154.1 acres of property once a part of the Rockefeller estate. The property, known as “The Hairfield Tract” is divided by Ray Road in western Harnett County. Officials at the base have continually told county officials the transfer of the property is eminent, seemingly the equivalent of telling the county manager’s office the check is in the mail.

“Since 2008, Jan. 28, 2008, this was put into law that the military was going to give us that track,” County Manager Paula Stewart said. “Up until earlier this week, our clerk was still trying to find out where the transaction lies.”

Stewart told the Harnett County Board of Commissioners during their work session last week, they have reviewed what has taken place so far regarding the transaction.

“We’ve got all the documentation from back in 2008, we’ve sent them a letter in 2013, we sent them a letter in 2009,” Stewart said. “We’ve done everything we’re supposed to do and it’s just waiting for their signatures. Your guess is as good as mine as to when it will happen.”

The most recent contact between Harnett County and Army officials came via an email between Board Clerk Gina Wheeler and the executive assistant to the garrison commander at Fort Bragg.

In the email, dated July 26, an explanation was offered as to the latest delay, one which was promised to be lessened in May when then-Garrison Commander Col. Kyle Reed told commissioners the wait should be over in 60 to 90 days from the date of their meeting.

“With real estate transactions of this magnitude, transfer of lands by Congressional Law, it has to run through all the responsible headquarter levels,” the email said. “Each level has their legal and real property staff review to meet the law and all legal obligations.”

The email then set forth the steps:

1. Prepared by and approved at the Directorate of Public Works.

2. Approved by Fort Bragg Garrison Headquarters.

3. Approved by Installation Directorate-Readiness (IMCOM-Fort Bragg’s next level headquarters).

4. Approved by Installation Management Command.

5. Approved by the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Installation Management (OACSIM).

6. Final approval by the deputy assistant secretary of the Army (DASA).

7. Action prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, Georgia.

According to the email, the paperwork is currently in stage five and at that time was pending DASA approval the first portion of August.

“Anytime you meet with the garrison commander he says it’ll be two months,” Wheeler said. “I’ve gotten to know their resistance.”

Under terms of the deeding to the county, the property must be used for educational purposes, of which Harnett County Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Fleming said in May would be a welcomed asset.

He told The Daily Record there are abundant uses for the land at many grade levels. He anticipated the property could become an outdoor classroom for students as well as for many areas of study or training.

“We would love to use it for some hands-on activities for our students,” Fleming said. “Really almost at every grade level, a lot of lessons for our science programs to be done, a lot of great things can happen with the land just as it is now.”

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