- Last Updated on Thursday, 24 January 2013 15:43
- Published on Wednesday, 29 April 2009 18:38
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Members of The Westmoreland County Citizens Association had plenty of company when they gathered for this Monday night’s monthly meeting at the Montross firehouse. Regular Association meeting attendees were joined by a delegation from the recently formed Westmoreland County Citizens for Change.
Readers will note from this paper’s recent reportings that new voices have been heard at recent Board of Supervisors public comment segments. Retired professionals who have made their homes on the county’s waterfront have come forward in recent months to express concern about O’Gara Group’s intention to establish a paramilitary training facility on a nearby 350-acre tract.
Amended sales contracts stipulate that O’Gara Group will purchase the county government’s reportedly dilapidated industrial shell building and companion 25 acres as well as car dealer Bryan Chandler’s adjacent 325 acres as soon as July 1.
The public learned of the O’Gara deal on January 11, when the initial purchase contract was approved. The Westmoreland County Citizens Association membership voiced immediate opposition to the local government’s secretive behavior during an 18-month negotiating period.
Since January 11, individual members of the Citizens Association have publicly expressed their opposition to O’Gara Group’s intentions. A majority of that organization’s membership shares the opinion that bringing the O’Gara facility to Westmoreland would be a disservice to the county residents.
Since O’Gara Group made its intentions known, individual Citizens Association members have expressed their feelings whenever the Board of Supervisors has allowed private citizens to speak.
Citizens Association President Kennon Morris shared his opposition to O’Gara Group during a recent Board of Supervisors meeting and was chastised by a member of the Board. He subsequently made it clear that he was speaking for himself and not the Citizens Association.
The Citizens Association has sometimes been criticized for being too negative, but many of its members have also criticized the organization for being too accommodating to the local government.
“All we do is talk,” said one man at a recent Citizens Association meeting.
At this month’s meeting, the Citizens Association regulars were possibly outnumbered by the Westmoreland County Citizens for Change visitors who waited for the Association’s regular monthly business to conclude.
Bob Quinn was the first speaker from the new group. Quinn explained that Westmoreland County Citizens for Change was created in recent weeks “to fight O’Gara and to do other things.
“We should probably join WCCA,” Bob Quinn commented. “We are going to need a lot of help. Perhaps we should join WCCA and vice versa.”
The new organization immediately launched an anti-O’Gara petition drive that is ongoing. Committees are being formed to pursue specific taskings the membership hopes will result in improvements broader segments of the community can embrace.
The visitors talked about probable O’Gara impacts and it became immediately apparent that research on the subject has reached a new level of sophistication.
Most compelling during this Monday night’s discussion was the first-hand experience that three or four Citizens for Change visitors shared with the Association regulars.
The first of those speakers described himself as a retired mercenary who had received formal training to kill other people and who now lives in Westmoreland. He recalled some high points of his training.
“We were told to stay out of bars and to avoid talking [to the locals],” something that speaker and others said most trainees should be expected to ignore.
“I can tell you that you don’t want to be around those guys,” the man related. “I don’t think the police around here can handle them. They’re good people, but they don’t get invited to headquarters ‘cause they aren’t wanted!”
Another retired paramilitary professional quoted in a previous edition of this paper concurred with the first speaker and warned that the O’Gara trainees aren’t the types county residents would want to encounter in a local restaurant.
A third individual described himself as a retired mercenary from Berlin. “These are dangerous buys they’re talking about bringing into Westmoreland County,” he began.
“Who needs a paramilitary group in your back yard? We don’t need private organizations like O’Gara. We have our own military. Wasn’t this how Stalin and Hitler got started? Won’t the people overseas hate us when we send our mercenaries over there?”
The first retired paramilitary professional spoke again, sharing recent research findings directly counter to the local government’s publicly stated assertion.
“They do train foreign nationals,” he said.
A woman from the new group then shared some research. She had found an Internet posting from a self-described mercenary with an Hispanic surname who is currently searching for a job.
“Looking for private security detail, Pimp Daddy is Crucible trained and wants work in Afghanistan,” she read from the computer generated document. The woman then recited a list of Virginia localities where paramilitary training establishments currently exist and warned that their numbers are on the rise. “They’re mushrooming,” she explained.
Yet another member of the new organization told The Journal that the federal government’s stimulus package includes as much as a billion dollars to subsidize establishment of mercenary training establishments.
“O’Gara Group will get its share of the federal money,” she explained.
The initial speaker delivered a grim prediction before the meeting ended. The contemplated Westmoreland County acreage and the 920 acres in Shenandoah Valley are too small. Such facilities, he explained, require larger areas. After they are established in a jurisdiction, they will expect to expand, the man explained.
It was remembered that O’Gara’s Jim Noe told the Westmoreland residents who gathered for the briefing at Carmel United Methodist Church that O’Gara Group would in fact expand its facility if the initial effort met with success.
That same evening at Carmel Church a neighboring landowner had been concerned about stray bullets making his own property unsafe. Noe told the prospective neighbor that O’Gara Group would purchase an easement if stray bullets did become a problem.
Critics maintain that O’Gara activities will cause the values of their own nearby properties to plummet and will force them to sell their homes. Local residents maintain that offers to buy nearby property are already being made by a county resident known to have close ties to the O’Gara Group.