Stephen Ellison

Concord Council to Hold Special Meeting on Detention Camp at Naval Weapons Station

The Concord City Council scheduled a special meeting for Wednesday to discuss news reports that the U.S. Navy may be planning to place a detention facility for up to 47,000 immigrant detainees at the former Naval Weapons Station.

The meeting was expected to include time for community input, and city officials hope to formulate a response from the council as well as a plan of action going forward.

"I couldn’t live with myself if I wasn’t here denouncing it," said protestor Christine Smith. "I think it’s absolutely terrible to happen anyplace."

Mayor Edi Birsan sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer on Monday asking that an authorized representative be sent to the meeting to answer questions about the decision-making process involved, as well as the potential project's current status and timing.

Chief Navy spokesman Capt. Gregory Hicks said in response to the news reports, "In order to inform potential senior leader discussion around this topic (places for detainees), Navy planners proactively pulled together a list of options that could be considered. The memo (obtained by Time Inc.) is strictly pre-decisional and meant for informed deliberation by senior leaders."

Birsan has a number of concerns outlined in the letter, including environmental contamination. The 12,800-acre Concord Naval Weapons Station is listed as a "superfund site" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Birsan says significant portions of the property are not suitable for human occupation.

Moreover, the facility "currently has no useful infrastructure to provide water, sewer, or electricity," Birsan said.

City officials have been working to take possession of the sprawling site for roughly 12 years, and that process is within months of transferring the property to the city and the East Bay Regional Parks District for residential and commercial development.

"These concerns, individually and collectively, make the (Concord Naval Weapons Station) unsuitable for consideration as a detention facility," Birsan said.

During the meeting, people learned city leaders have gotten word the plan has been halted, Congressman Mark DeSaulnier said he’s cautiously optimistic but is waiting for official verification.

"We’re very glad we seem to have multiple people say it’s not going to happen we’d just like verification from the department of defense," he said.

Jodi Hernandez contributed to this article.

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