- Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 May 2009 18:30
- Published on Wednesday, 20 May 2009 18:30
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At a meeting last Monday, every public comment speaker except Bill Alverson had concerns about either about The O’Gara Group’s plans to locate its paramilitary consulting establishment in Westmoreland County or an already established bud-bog enterprise that disturbs its neighbors but which county officials appear unable to control.
Bill Alverson wanted to talk about roadside trash and grass that VDOT lacks the revenue to mow.
“I worry about safety with all the trash we have along our roads,” said Alverson. “Can’t somebody find a way to increase the fines for littering? Then we could get money for VDOT to mow the grass!”
Mud-bog neighbors Gerald and Sherry Fisher reiterated previously aired complaints about the disruptive mud-bog events and the county government's failure to enforce conditions it attached to that land use activity. As a result, the Fishers say disturbances associated with the mud-bog activities caused their home’s value to plummet.
O’Gara opponents project similar unwanted impacts to their own home values and quality of life if the paramilitary consulting entity moves its operations to Westmoreland. Another mud-bog neighbor shared similar complaints.
The names and faces of many O’Gara opponents were new last Monday. Review of the meeting’s minutes at a later date may clarify those speakers’ identities.
One relative newcomer on May 11 was Dennis McGuire, who told the Supervisors he had worked with the kinds of individuals O’Gara expects to bring to its Westmoreland facility.
“You’re bringing mercenaries in here,” he warned. “They like the high testosterone level. They like to play around. Will the local police be able to control trained killers?”
Someone at the Supervisors’ table must have raised an eyebrow. McGuire immediately commented, “That’s what they do for a living. That’s what they like to do. The O’Gara presentation said they had to have facilities for special operations.
“The guys that will be coming in here are dangerous. I think they’ll hurt a lot of people. The young men who live around here just aren’t that tough. With these guys coming to Westmoreland County, we are in danger.”
(See Senator Richard Stuart's letter to the McGuire on this week's Opinion page in response to letter to the editor from McGuire in last week's paper.)
Paul Mountjoy asked the Supervisors and attending officials to raise their hands if that had combat experience in their prior lives. No one responded, but Mountjoy had more to say.
“I come from a family of warriors. One of our favorite sons died in Iraq. If you gentlemen don’t know about combat, you will find out because you are going to hear it every day.
“The combat veterans who live here aren’t going to want to have to hear anything like that ever again. They really shouldn’t have to!”
The speaker warned the Supervisors that class action suits would be brought if O’Gara’s activities cause combat veterans to have recurrent psychological impacts. He warned that other lives would be disrupted, too.
Rose Goodlow addressed the O’Gara topic, which she described as “a passionate issue.
“If being a radical means doing a lot of research, I welcome the title,” she stated immediately.
Goodlow said she had worked for the State Police and had lived in Westmoreland previously. She explained that the recently formed WE COUNT citizens group has “put in countless hours trying to gather correct facts. We have sources to back up the information we present.”
Goodlow questioned how and why O’Gara was able to sell the county government the idea that they are a school. She said O’Gara isn’t even financially solvent, that they have been operating in the red and that the effort to locate in Westmoreland is part of O’Gara’s Hail Mary attempt to try to get back on its feet.
“Their resident instructors won’t be absorbed in this community, but the county’s contract with O’Gara was signed prematurely and you have been negligent and irresponsible in bringing O’Gara to Westmoreland,” Goodlow told the county supervisors.
Joan Winters told the Supervisors there were already 600 names on the WE COUNT organization’s anti-O’Gara petitions.
“We are just getting started,” she warned. “As we gather more facts about O’Gara, there will probably be hundreds and even thousands of people who are going to join us” to try to keep O’Gara out.
Lonnie Walls told the Supervisors he lives on Pierce Creek, the Nomini tributary closest to the land O’Gara expects to occupy. He then explained that the proximity of the county’s upland EPA Superfund Site has caused the market value of his property to fall as much as $200,000. Walls worried that O’Gara’s plans will also cause his property’s value to be reduced.
“I have concerns with O’Gara’s powder burns, smoke residue and lead,” the resident continued. “I enjoy the wildlife, the outdoors and the creek. The outcomes of the test fires we conducted in January and February weren’t like what Lt. Hundley reported from the Sheriff’s Office tests.”
Noise impacts would be greater, Walls advised. He said he didn’t want “a Disneyworld of training camps” as neighbors.