EXCLUSIVE: Fort Howard Developers to Sign Lease with VA despite Serious Unanswered Questions
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 18th January 2017
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September 5, 2013 2:12 pm ET

Many issues remain shrouded in secrecy as the community is kept in the dark

Source: EXCLUSIVE: Fort Howard Developers to Sign Lease with VA despite Serious Unanswered Questions

Many issues remain shrouded in secrecy as the community is kept in the dark

(Bloggers Note: This is the first part of a series of posts on this topic.)

As a lover of music, I often use song lyrics to relate to what I am writing in this blog. In searching for the appropriate lyrics to try and sum up this subject matter, I was led to a love song by the late, great Andy Williams.

“Where Do I Begin?”

Quite frankly, as I did my due diligence and researched the Fort Howard development situation, I was led through a maze of contradictions, double talk, and spin. And all of that has led me to one conclusion: this is a MESS, and it is bound to get even messier as the clock continues to tick away regarding a development that is shrouded in mystery.

A mystery is good for a book, movie, or television show, but it is not good for the citizens or the area. We, the people, are going to be left mystified, wondering what the heck happened when this deal goes down (the lease is set to be signed at the end of the month, by the way). We, the people, will be asking ourselves how those whom we elected to speak for us could, instead, choose to speak for a developer that is hell bent on making a buck. And we, the people that live in this region, will be left proverbially holding a bag full of angry cats.

Meanwhile, the developers will be quite happy counting their money.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, and I’m sure that I’ve given those who call me a naysayer plenty of ammunition to accuse me of starting some conspiracy theory. In reality, I am simply seeking the truth—a truth that I have yet to hear come out of the same two people’s mouths.

Allow me to start at the beginning.

A while ago, I wrote this blog that alluded to a report from the GAO (that is the U.S. Government Accountability Office, for those unfamiliar with the acronym) that discussed this entire Fort Howard matter. The report was scathing, to say the least, in pointing out that the VA did not—in many cases—do a good job of protecting the creditability of the program. It would be helpful if you click on the link and read the previous post; but, for those of you that don’t have the time or aren’t feeling that ambitious, here is an excerpt from the report:

“Management of the VA’s EUL program needs improvement. EUL projects were not always effectively monitored to serve the best interest of the Department and veteran. VA could not fully determine EUL effectiveness due to inaccurate reporting on program benefits and expenses. Personnel did not always document major project decisions, resulting in a lack of transparency. Further, delays in executing lease agreements meant VA sometimes had to maintain capital assets longer than necessary.

The problems above occurred because EUL program policies and procedures, oversight, and performance measures were not in place to ensure adequate project documentation, timely project development and execution, effective monitoring, and accurate cost accounting. As a result, VA may not have full realized the potential benefits of the EUL program.”

Basically, the GAO is saying that the VA program is a mess. (Gee, there’s that word again…)

So, how does this lead to a $500 million dollar calamity at the old Fort Howard Veterans Hospital located at the end of North Point Road? It all boils down to one word: MONEY, and a ton of it.

I know that there are those who will accuse me of standing in the way of “progress” that will benefit the area, but I am not worried about them. I am more worried about the developer’s promises of taking care of our veterans. Quite frankly, if history is any indication of the future, our vets will be left holding that bag full of angry cats. The previous developer—or ex-developer, as I prefer to say—took our cash and fled the country. Yes, I recognize that some of the money was returned, but—from what I can tell—others received checks that bounced higher than a rubber ball dropped from a skyscraper.

So, my suggestion to the community is to WAKE UP! (Is that loud and clear enough? It’s hard to yell in written form.) We, the people, need to take our heads out of the sand because this whole project has seemingly gone underground. What do I mean by that? Well, let’s see … the developers took down their website, disconnected their phones, and have gone incognito to avoid public scrutiny.

If that doesn’t start to paint an ugly picture for the future of this project, I don’t know what will.

Meanwhile, I continue to look to our elected officials to do what is best for the people regarding this whole situation. Unfortunately, the responses I have been receiving seem to follow a common theme.

So, this is the beginning of a series of blog posts that will shed some light on the darkness that has been thrust upon the public regarding Fort Howard. I invite you to join me for the future posts; just prepare to have your eyes opened. My goal is to show you plenty of documents that I have compiled in my quest to unravel this rather perplexing (here comes that word again) MESS so that everyone—including my detractors—can understand the depths to which this situation has sunk.

The cast of characters for this series includes none other than Councilman John Olszewski, Sr.; Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger; our own county executive, Kevin Kamenetz; representatives of the VA; and the esteemed developers, including a man named Tim Munshell who is represented by the law firm of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt.

I’m sure that many of those names are familiar with you.

In the meantime, you might want to read this blog and try to explain how this project went from missing milestones to a soon-to-be-signed lease?

It is, as they say, a sticky wicket…

In my next blog, I try to take a look at what the heck is going on with the development of Fort Howard. Stay tuned…