The Fort Drum Regional Liaison Organization provided updates on soldier levels at the post along with area housing and the potential for bringing unmanned aircraft testing at its annual meeting Thursday afternoon.
Col. Noel T. Nicolle, the posts garrison commander, told attendees that 18,682 were assigned to Fort Drum as of May 31, a number that represented 111 percent of the number authorized by Army. An additional 1,434 soldiers from the post are deployed.
Col. Nicolle also said post leaders were watching closely housing levels in the area, noting that 0.69 percent of rental properties were vacant and that there was a deficiency of 1,035 housing units in the immediate area.
Carl A. McLaughlin, the organizations executive director, said the shortage shows a need for more housing projects to move forward.
The organization also heard about the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, a statewide group of businesses and researchers who want to bring unmanned aircraft systems tests to the upstate area. The group hopes to make the area one of six Federal Aviation Administration test sites for the aircraft, which the group hopes would bring jobs and money to the region.
Proponents of the bid noted the large amount of infrastructure in the area, primarily at Fort Drum. However, some expressed concern about how the testing would take place.
Michael T. Plummer, president of the Northern New York-Fort Drum Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, said he was concerned the placement could encroach on the posts operations.
The FAA will make a decision about the sites in December.
It also was announced that John J. Wheeler will serve as interim director for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, temporarily replacing Director Denise K. Young, who will be away for three months.
The organization also selected its new officers and board members.
Elizabeth C. Fipps will return as chairwoman, and will be joined by Vice Chairwoman Mary M. Corriveau, Secretary Thomas H. Carman and Treasurer David J. Zembiec. The four will serve until June 2014.
Dennis C. Affinati, Judith L. Gentner, Henry J. Leader, Ronald P. McDougall and Barbara N. Webber will serve on the organizations board of directors until June 2015, while James W. Wright will serve on the board until June 2013.
Those attending the meeting gave a standing ovation to founding member Kevin T. Mastellon and administrative assistant Kathleen B. Mastellon, who are stepping down from formal roles and jobs within the organization. Both had served since the organizations founding in the 1990s.
Theyve done it all ... in every aspect, everything that weve done, Mr. McLaughlin said. Thats pretty incredible.