- Last Updated on Tuesday, 08 September 2009 23:52
- Published on Tuesday, 08 September 2009 23:52
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Several Westmoreland Citizens Association (WCCA) officers received a letter in last week’s mail from District 3 Supervisor Lynn Brownley that appeared to reflect the Supervisor’s reaction to an Aug. 26 Journal report detailing a portion of the Aug. 24 WCCA meeting.
On Aug. 18, Brownley had mailed a set of eight O’Gara-related questions to some of the WCCA officers and also to some private citizens who were not at that time members of the WCCA, but who were known to oppose the local government’s recruitment of O’Gara’s corporate soldier training establishment to Westmoreland County.
Bob and Margaret Quinn had already received and responded to Brownley’s set of O’Gara related questions when WCCA President Kennon Morris read the set of questions to the association’s membership.
The Quinns were guests at the association’s Aug. 24 meeting, and as Morris read a question, Bob Quinn followed with a reading of the answer that couple had previously prepared. Many of the Quinns’ responses were interrupted by the WCCA membership’s applause.
A WCCA member delivered a motion from the floor to inform Supervisor Brownley that the Quinns’ responses to the set of O’Gara questions reflect the sentiments of the association’s membership. The motion passed with a unanimous vote.
Before Morris was able to respond in writing to the District 2 Supervisor, Brownley’s Aug. 28 letter was in the mail. Association officer Bette Williams provided The Journal with a copy of the correspondence Brownley addressed to WCCA President Kennon Morris, but mailed to her Montross post office address.
“I am quite surprised at your response to the recent questions I posed,” began Brownley. “Simply mimicking the answers of Robert and Margaret Quinn shows that convenience is desired more than substance.
“Certainly, some portions of their responses are appropriate for adoption, but not statements predicated on a meeting I had with them that none of you attended and concerning which you have no direct knowledge.
“Furthermore, some of the statements are not responsive to the actual question(s) posed. Others are flat wrong and simply argumentative. For example, I have never taken or given any ‘guided tour’ (see their answer #5).
“I have acknowledged publicly that I felt mistakes were made, but I have explained thoroughly why I have never deliberately misled anyone concerning the O’Gara project. The Quinns suggest otherwise and, at this point, that suggestion is personally offensive. Please be so advised.”
By now Brownley is in receipt of written responses from additional residents concerned about their local government’s recruitment of a corporate soldier training facility to Westmoreland County.
Two of the Brownley questions and Quinn responses were published in this paper on Aug. 26. The first question concerned a land use opinion attributed to the late Westmoreland County Zoning Administrator Gary Ziegler.
“Why,’ Brownley questioned, “do references to the Ziegler memo (categorizing O’Gara activities as comprising a vocational or technical school) continuously suggest that his opinion was biased or not objective?”
Private citizen Rose Goodloe received Brownley’s set of questions and delivered a written answer to the Supervisor on Aug. 28. She addressed the Ziegler memo question as follows:
“Regarding the document authored by Mr. Ziegler, it was never disclosed why Mr. Ziegler wrote his memo, dated Sept. 17, 2008, regarding schools and A-1 [Agricultural] land use relative to the shell building, when it was reported that the County’s first knowledge regarding O’Gara was when they made their presentation on Jan. 12, 2009.
“In the May presentation made by WECOUNT [Westmoreland County Citizens for Change] the question was asked and never answered. ‘Who made the request for this interpretation, and why was it requested if it had nothing to do with O’Gara?’
“In accordance with code, a request for interpretation is made in writing and the County is given 90 days to respond. In the spirit of open communication, this information and the answers to other questions should have been openly forthcoming, rather than having the Board [of Supervisors] make flip remarks about ‘taking six years’ [to reply] and making no effort to respond to the concerns.
“More importantly,” Goodloe continued, “the assessment made in Mr. Ziegler’s memo regarding the allowed uses of the Shell Building as a specialized training facility further demonstrates that the O’Gara training facility does not have a 9711 Standard Industrial Classification Code, nor is it a military school, as stated in Item 1 of the document.
“Public comment at Board meetings, where it is regulated and no dialog offered, is like talking in an empty room and hardly satisfies the requirement of public involvement, especially when the matter at hand has already been finalized.
“There was no public involvement by this county before this venture was undertaken, therefore, the people were not considered, even though this was something that would impact many lives, not just those of the adjacent property owners.
“In fact, a regulation, which applies to residences, should not apply to commercial enterprises. The impact that commercial and industrial development has on an entire community should be considered, not just the impact to adjacent land owners.”
Dennis L. and Norma J. McGuire received the set of questions from Supervisor Brownley and delivered their written responses on Sept. 1.
“We are a bit perplexed by some of the questions,” they said. “We believe Board of Supervisors meetings for the past four months, almost weekly coverage of the O’Gara issue by local media, and numerous published letters have been clear in explaining citizens’ concerns.
“Nevertheless, we will try to shed more light on the subject.”
Addressing the Brownley query concerning the opinion document attributed to the deceased zoning administrator, the McGuires began: “We have no knowledge of the intricacies of zoning opinions. However, we do know that it is the document that allowed the County to move forward with O’Gara in secrecy and without a public hearing.
“Appearances are quite telling, and here’s the scenario. We believe the county was so desperate to unload the fiasco of the shell building that it couldn’t tolerate public resistance to the only business that showed interest (or, that was invited — we don’t know which).
“It certainly appears that the opinion was contrived to allow the acceptance of an O’Gara offer in secrecy because county officials understood it would be controversial. The plan couldn’t be allowed to fail.
“If the opinion was indeed unbiased and objective, why lean on it to justify secrecy? Why not have a public debate and let the chips fall where they may?”
Betsy Ficklin, The Journal