Aberdeen Ponders Dog Training Site
The Aberdeen Town Board is still on the fence about approving a change to the zoning ordinance to allow a military dog-training facility to set up shop in its jurisdiction.
K2 Solutions, Inc., a Southern Pines-based firm, needs a site to train at least 112 Labrador retrievers for the U.S. Marine Corps. It is asking the board to amend a town zoning code to allow dog kennels in heavy industrial zones. The board took up the matter during its meeting Monday night.
Mayor Betsy Mofield asked that the board consider touring the company's temporary facility in Scotland County to get a better idea of what K2 Solutions Inc. hopes to build in a heavy industrial zone south of N.C. Highway 211.
Ray Ogden, executive director of Moore County Partners in Progress, a nonprofit economic development organization, described the company's previous difficulties with Moore County over a potential site in Vass as a chance to bring economic stimulus to Aberdeen through 30 new jobs and a program that would recruit "serious" people and "solid taxpayers" to the area.
"In today's world, we've got to scrounge up every job we can find," Ogden said.
He also added that K2 Solutions, Inc. is a local business with good intentions, including hopes to expand its business locally.
Ogden introduced Layne Kjellsen, founder and president of K2 Solutions Inc., to the board.
As a part of his presentation, Kjellsen showed a seven-minute video produced by the U.S. Marine Corps. about the utility of dogs in the military and what training programs entail.
He noted that the Moore County Planning Board never saw the video during its meeting last week because of technical difficulties. That board voted to recommend that the county commissioners deny the request to rezone land near Vass for the facility.
Kjellsen addressed the board's questions about the project -- specifically concerns over the detonation of explosives, the noise of barking dogs and security in the area.
Kjellsen did not give information regarding what types of explosives will be on site for security reasons, but he did say that the company has proper licenses and is currently in the process of acquiring a license for the storage and transportation of explosives from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
He added that the dogs need to be around different types of explosives so that they can become accustomed to them.
Kjellsen assured the board that though the dogs would be trained with varying types of explosions, detonations would occur only "on occasion."
"The first time a dog hears a detonation should not be in Afghanistan," Kjellsen said. "It's my job to make sure that [the dog] has heard that before he leaves [the facility]."
When addressing the issue of noise, Kjellsen did say that the dogs would be excited from time to time and bark, especially around feeding times, but every dog is trained to respond immediately to the command, "Quiet," as a military tactic.
Dogs at the facility must be obedient if they are to be useful in special operations with the Marines.
Kjellsen told the board that he could easily manage a facility on 10 acres of land, but he is seeking a much larger property to provide adequate buffers to surrounding areas.
Kjellsen provided a layout of the kennels planned to demonstrate the security that prevents a dog from escaping. Each dog has an individual kennel separated by brick walls. Fifteen kennels are grouped together in another fenced in area, where the dogs can be released to run around.
All of these fenced blocks are enclosed by a perimeter fence that surrounds the entire facility.
The explosives on site are stored in a bunker capable of holding 5,000 pounds of explosives, though the company has only about 200 pounds of explosives. The bunker is secured by difficult double locks, a GPS tracking system and a sensor providing immediate real-time alerts for movement in the bunker. Along with the technology in place, the facility has a caretaker on site 24 hours a day.
Kjellsen said that once the program was established, each dog will be paired with a Marine, who will live in the area for the duration of the five-week program. He emphasized the project's ability to bring people to the area who will contribute to the local economy.
"We are not a dog company," Kjellsen said. "We are a military services company."
When asked how long the program would have contracts for dog training, Kjellsen told the board that he is contracted with the Marines through August 2010, but that he is open to other local opportunities, such as training for law enforcement K9 units.
If the board approves an amendment to the zoning ordinance, it can either issue a conditional-use permit that require holding a quasi-judicial public hearing -- something that could take two to three months -- or it can issue an amendment by right and hold a traditional public hearing.
The board discussed potentially speeding up the process to allow K2 Solutions to maintain its contractual agreement with the Marine Corps.
The board wants an amendment detailed enough to prevent similar kennels from coming into the heavy industrial zones located in downtown Aberdeen. It also discussed including a minimum acreage requirement to address this concern in its work session Oct. 1.
Hannah Sharpe can be reached at (910) 693-2485.
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