June 11, 2014 2:32 am ET
McDonough pledges support in Fort Howard issue; other politicians are AWOL
Source: Fighting for Our Vets
Standing before a crowd comprising nearly 60 veterans and citizens, Delegate Pat McDonough showed the integrity and fortitude necessary in a political leader as he vowed to take up the fight of the Save Fort Howard community group.
Delegate McDonough is a veteran himself, and he has been following this issue very closely. That veteran’s spirit was evident to all who braved the extreme weather to attend the meeting at the North Point Volunteer Fire Hall. McDonough agreed to block any attempt by Secretary of Transportation Jim Smith to secure funding to widen North Point Road, including infrastructure upgrades in the areas of water, sewer, and electricity. These upgrades are necessary to obtain the final VA approval needed for the developers to move forward. That would put the project at the respective door steps of Baltimore County and the State of Maryland.
Sources say the amount of the project is around $25 million and would include tearing up the entire length of North Point Road, a key component to the Fort Howard development moving forward. The VA confirmed that this is the final step necessary before the developer moves forward, as displayed in this email:
The VA has not given the developer the approval yet to move forward with the Fort Howard project, so that is probably why the county has not yet received anything formal from the developer at this time. After the VA gives the developer the approval to move forward with the Fort Howard project, they will have to work through the county for all zoning and other requirements just like any other development.
Team Coordinator Russell Donnelly called the meeting with the intention of disseminating the latest information to the community involving the current state of the entire project.
Many of Mr. Donnelly’s findings have been reported in my blog. Along with Mr. Donnelly’s discoveries, I have taken a close look at this project. In doing so, I uncovered more information that I believe is a direct attempt at deceiving the community in a blatant effort by the VA to move the development forward.
A scathing report issued by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported similar types of issues across the country where developers ignore the goal of providing veterans with necessary facilities. This is a quote from the GAO investigation:
“EUL projects were not always effectively monitored to serve VA’s and veterans’ best interests.
VA could not fully determine EUL effectiveness due to inaccurate reporting on program benefits and expenses. Responsible personnel did not always document major project decisions, resulting in a lack of transparency…Responsible personnel did not always document major project decisions, resulting in a lack of transparency.”
Speaking of transparency, mum seems to be the word of the day among local politicians. If you couldn’t deduce from the headline, Delegate McDonough was the only elected official to show up at the meeting.
Everything I have seen regarding paperwork about meeting the numerous NEPA laws has been taken down by the VA from its website. One person at the meeting who has direct knowledge of how these issues work is John Long of Clean Bread Cheese Creek, because that is his job—he has vast expertise in working with federal contracts.
John said that, in working with federal contracts, the rules state that once a contract is terminated for whatever reason, the contractor must begin anew. But that has not happened with Fort Howard.
One report of particular interest to a community member was a traffic study promised by the Smith law firm during the one and only meeting held on June 15, 2011. That concerned community member inquired how the developers were going to meet the demands of increased traffic when the county already admitted that North Point Road was nearing capacity for the current amount of traffic.
Smith’s law firm, along with the developers, promised an answer in 30 days to that issue, as well as other infrastructure concerns. “We are still waiting for that report,” he lamented.
As far back as 2005, the county reported that the traffic growth over the next 30 years would almost double to 9,200 vehicles a day. This was before the Fort Howard Development idea was hatched.
Although no other elected officials were there, as well as no VA representatives, there were political candidates present. Among them were council hopefuls Todd Crandell – R, Buddy Staigerwald – D, and Scott Holupka – D; delegate hopefuls Eric Washington, Jake Mohorovic, and Bob Long; and senate hopeful Johnny Salling.
All stood in unison when asked to show their opposition to the development. Buddy Staigerwald said he would wait until a plan takes shape in order make a more informed decision. Scott Holupka said he was there to learn more about the project, while Johnny Salling said it was taking away an opportunity for the vets.
One thing is for certain—this seems reminiscent of the battle during the War of 1812, and the salvos are flying yet again.