TANK FACILITY DOOMED
By Margo Turner
December 26, 2000
persistent and vocal opposition to a secret $4.3 million land deal
doomed a proposed National Guard tank-training facility in their
rural Pennsylvania community.
Pennsylvania National Guard planned to build the facility on 4,700
acres of land near two townships, Girard and Goshen, with a combined
population of 990.
townships felt the facility would provide much-needed jobs to Clearfield
County, which lies in the coal-rich, cash-poor region of north-central
Pennsylvania. What infuriated local officials and residents was
the state's behind-closed-door negotiations for the land with several
landowners, one of whom is a major campaign contributor to Republican
Gov. Tom Miller, once a leading candidate for George W. Bush's vice
presidential running mate.
here were shocked that [the state] backed down on [the land deal],"
Ken Hoffman, a Girard resident, said "They were waiting for the
land deal to happen.
Gen. William Lynch, state adjutant general of the Guard, blamed
the decision to abandon the tank-training project on public outcry
and environmental issues.
experience has been that [public] opposition would make the difficult
job of obtaining federal funding nearly impossible," Lynch claimed.
state Rep. Camille "Bud" George, a Democrat, whose district lies
just south of the proposed tank-facility site, blasted the Ridge
administration and the Guard for wasting $430,000 of taxpayers'
money before abandoning the project.
Day 1, the Ridge administration and the Guard were told that the
site in Goshen and Girard townships were the wrong one and at the
wrong price," George said. "Now, more than 12 months and $430,000
later, they agree the people were correct."
Ridge administration negotiated in secret to pay more than $1.38
million to C. Alan Walker, who owns the majority of the 4,700 acres
of land for the Guard site. Walker and his father, Ray, are known
for their contributions and close ties to Ridge.
secret contracts with the Ridge administration guaranteed the younger
Walker and other landowners of the property $435,857, or 10 percent
of the purchase price, despite the state's abandoning the purchase.
Powell, a coal-mining businessman, offered to sell his land in the
southern portion of the county for the Guard facility at a cheaper
site. The state would pay Powell $600 an acre compared to $800 an
acre sought by Walker and his associates.
officials publicly stated that Powell's property offered "the best
training area for our soldiers and our equipment."
environmental studies, costing the state $20,614, discovered some
potential problems with the 4,700-acre property.
Guard proceeded with its purchase plans after officials in the two
townships approved resolutions opposing the planned purchase and
after Lynch testified before the state House Appropriations Committee
that "if the neighbors let us know why they don't want us there,
we'll go away," George pointed out.
said the Guard is welcomed in Clearfield County if residents and
local officials are part of "an open and fair process."
Pennsylvanians lose when its government conducts its business behind
closed doors, resorts to lies by inflating economic-impact figures
and sponsors bogus hearings," he said.
May, the Pennsylvania House approved George's amendment that would
require the state to advertise planned purchases of land costing
more than $100,000.
Born in Washington,
D.C., Margo Turner grew up in Towson, Md., which is 10 miles of Baltimore
City. She is a 1976 graduate of Towson University, where she earned
a bachelor of science degree in mass communications. She currently
lives in a Maryland suburb of Washington where she's a veteran journalist
with experience covering Congress and federal agencies.