- Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 18:25
- Published on Wednesday, 13 May 2009 18:25
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There were a few familiar faces in this Monday’s Westmoreland County Board of Supervisors meeting room. The rest of the Board’s unusually large audience never went to school with veteran Supervisors Darryl Fisher and Woody Hynson.
A substantial portion of the new faces that packed the May 11meeting room are recently retired urban professionals who now reside in the jurisdiction’s waterfront subdivisions. These are people skilled at utilizing cutting edge technology, intellectuals who don’t shrink from rolling up their sleeves to engage in grueling research as they pursue answers to the kinds of questions their elected officials hesitate to entertain.
A new community organization known as Westmoreland County Citizens for Change negotiated a 15-minute spot on the Supervisors’ May agenda and the power-point presentation group spokesperson Bob Quinn delivered on Monday lasted exactly the allocated time.
A highlight of the presentation was the group’s discovery that a past Westmoreland Zoning Administrators ruling that O’Gara Group’s establishment should be classified as a school may not hold water.
Research uncovered an O’Gara Group filing with Federal Government Standard Industrial Classification Code characterizing the establishment proposed for the 350-acre Westmoreland County tract as a business consulting service, a consideration which the Zoning Administrator’s ruling clearly overlooked.
The public comment segment of the May 11 Board of Supervisors meeting was dominated by concerns associated with the O’Gara Group’s Westmoreland County plans. The public officials anticipate that O’Gara Group will finalize its purchase of the publicly own property and shell building and Bryan Chandler’s land as soon as July 1.
Not mentioned on Monday was the promise that O’Gara President Jim Noe made to county residents earlier this year. If enough citizens were to make it clear that they oppose establishment of an O’Gara facility in Westmoreland, Noe said O’Gara Group would find another place to go.
On Monday the Supervisors were told that no fewer than 600 names have been placed on the new group’s anti-O’Gara petition. Additional signatures have since been gathered, but no one knows if Noe is in a position to keep the promise that he made. To date there has been no talk of the O’Gara Group pulling out.
Immediately before Quinn delivered the new organization’s presentation, Sheriff’s Lieutenant Ronald Hundley shared results of the Sheriff’s Department’s May 8 test of noise levels associated with the firing of pistol and rifle calibers O’Gara Group is expected to use on its facility’s ten shooting ranges.
According to test results, noise impacts will be minimal at distances of one and two miles. O’Gara opponents remained unsatisfied and cited official testimony form current O’Gara neighbors in Halifax, who say range firing creates unwanted disturbances at the referenced distances. Stray bullets continued to be an additional concern.
Speaker after speaker took advantage of the meeting’s public comment segment to express opposition to their local government’s intentions to bring O’Gara Group to Westmoreland County.
The WE CARE group delivered its written list of O’Gara questions to the local government and Board of Supervisors Chairman Darryl Fisher promised that the county government will formulate its answers in writing but warned that the county officials’ written response won’t be immediate.
Fisher continually referred to the people who gathered as “folks” and additionally reminded them that the opportunity to address the members of the local government should be perceived as a privilege that the local government can and will revoke at its discretion. The Chair advised that there would be a consequence if the folks were not appropriately polite.
One previously aired concern had been diminished property values. The Supervisors learned on Monday that the unwanted consequence has already begun. Joe Thompson advised that a couple had purchased a residential building lot on Nomini Creek but negated the sale when they learned of the O’Gara plans.
Two of the people who signed the new group’s petition sold their home immediately after learning of their local government’s O’Gara plans. Similar reports are surfacing but have not been confirmed.
Senator Richard Stuart, an O’Gara Group attorney, has additionally been asked to schedule a meeting with his O’Gara client and members of the new community organization. No O’Gara Group meeting dates had been established when this edition of The Journal went to press.