By Julia Hood
PR Week
May 27, 2002

“The cleanup of former military sites across the country is considered a national priority, but the actual execution of the overhaul is left up to the individual communities. Tourtelot, in Benicia, CA, is on site where abandoned ordnance (military parlance fur munitions) was discovered in 1996 as the property was being developed. Soon thereafter, it became clear that residents would have to withdraw from the area for part of the cleanup process. Getting the community to understand and agree to the plans, however, was the challenge of the PR team.

The primary strategy was to involve the community in as much as the process as possible, including the design of the project. In order to do that, a massive education effort was needed to help the residents understand the issues involved in environmental cleanup.

Don Knapp, a reporter from Bay Area TV station KRON-TV, called the withdrawal ‘a model of cooperation’ in his report, which was the lead news story at 5pm on the first evening. But media coverage was not considered the most significant result. The withdrawal was successful, and no residents complained.

It actually exceeded our expectations in that it wasn’t just people tolerating it, but people feeling good about it–feeling like they had participated in the cleanup of a liability in their community, says Scott Goldie, SVP and division manager for Pacific Bay Homes, a sister company to Granite Management. He should know: He’s a company representative who actually lives in the area, and withdrew from his own home, as his neighbors did.”