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County opens $9M judicial center

The new Westmoreland County Judicial Center — a facility that has been in the planning stages for 25...

Longtime educator takes over at W&L High School

Longtime educator takes over at W&L High School

When Dashan Turner was a boy growing up in a small town in Mississippi, one of his teachers told him...

Montross council productive July meeting

On July 22, Montross Town Council quickly took care of electing officers for the new fiscal year. R....

Westmoreland County’s Parker Farms Supplies Produce to East Coast

Westmoreland County’s Parker Farms Supplies Produce to East Coast

Parker Farms, headquartered near Oak Grove with 2,000 acres of produce growing along the Rappahannoc...

“Bridge Closed” signs up on Rt 205

“Bridge Closed” signs were posted this week on State Route 205 in Westmoreland County as the Virgini...

14-year-old equipment endangering lives

Oak Grove VFD Chief Mike Gutridge recently advised that he is very concerned about the decaying cond...

 

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Lawsuits are filed as O’Gara’s purchase date grows closer

O’Gara group has until July 1 to buy the properties from Bryan Chandler and the Westmoreland County government, but people are prepared to fight and lawsuits are being filed against key members of the county government.
On Monday Dennis and Norma McGuire began the action with a petition and affidavit for good cause and for writ of mandamus, alleging that county administrator Norm Risavi has violated Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act. A mandamus orders a public agency to perform a duty, already required by law, that it has refused to or failed to do.

Read more: Lawsuits are filed as O’Gara’s purchase date grows closer

O’Gara opposition may be on the rise

O’Gara opposition may be on the rise
“This is the biggest thing that has ever happened in Westmoreland County,” a seasoned public official and Westmoreland County native told The Journal earlier this week. “I’ve never seen anything generate this level of passion and public outcry.”
This Monday night the Westmoreland County Citizens Association (WCCA) had a call for the O’Gara question. Treasurer Wallace McGuinniss had already left the meeting and only 2.5 of the attendees said O’Gara ought to come.

Read more: O’Gara opposition may be on the rise

Opposition to O’Gara Group continues to grow in Westmoreland County

Ever since the Westmoreland County public became aware of O’Gara Group’s intentions to bring its paramilitary training facility to a 350-acre tract that is currently owned by Bryan Chandler and the county government, public opposition has been on the rise.

A few weeks after the January 2009 meeting in which members of the local government ratified a contract to sell its unoccupied industrial shell building and surrounding 25 acres to O’Gara, O’Gara employee Jim Noe met with local residents and made a promise that O’Gara Group will not come to Westmoreland is enough county residents made it clear that O’Gara is not wanted.

Read more: Opposition to O’Gara Group continues to grow in Westmoreland County

O’Gara opponents share concerns

 At a meeting last Monday, every public comment speaker except Bill Alverson had concerns about either about The O’Gara Group’s plans to locate its paramilitary consulting establishment in Westmoreland County or an already established bud-bog enterprise that disturbs its neighbors but which county officials appear unable to control.
Bill Alverson wanted to talk about roadside trash and grass that VDOT lacks the revenue to mow.
“I worry about safety with all the trash we have along our roads,” said Alverson. “Can’t somebody find a way to increase the fines for littering? Then we could get money for VDOT to mow the grass!”
 Mud-bog neighbors Gerald and Sherry Fisher reiterated previously aired complaints about the disruptive mud-bog events and the county government's failure to enforce conditions it attached to that land use activity.  As a result, the Fishers say disturbances associated with the mud-bog activities caused their home’s value to plummet.

Read more: O’Gara opponents share concerns

Displeased Westm'd residents put Supervisors on notice

“Say no to O’Gara”

   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.

Read more: Displeased Westm'd residents put Supervisors on notice

Victims Rights group meets at courthouse

   As an elected official, I am often asked to help with things that have nothing to do with my constitutional responsibility of acting as a representative.
    Thus I, along with Senator Stuart, Sheriff Balderson and others, were recently asked to speak at a candlelight vigil at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.  The vigil was in recognition of the victims of crime and was in direct response to recent unsolved violent crimes – including a murder.
    The event was organized by Katherine Cross, whose son died after complications from a shooting and botched home invasion.  Clearly, Ms. Cross is carrying the burden of a lost child, and she is channeling that sorrow into positive action by organizing the whole community.
    Those who were at the vigil were young and old, male and female, black and white.  Indeed, the cross section of the crowd represented a cross section of the county – proof that crime has no boundaries.
    Indeed, to me, the effect of a violent crime is like that of a rock thrown into a pond.  The initial splash might be the crime, but the waves and wake coming from that impact reverberate much farther than the splash itself.  The larger the rock, the worse the waves.  Similarly, the smoother the water – from smaller communities – means the wake has a disproportionate impact.
    In my opinion, Virginia does a pretty good job of helping victims of crime and actually has a Victims Bill of Rights.
   But that begs the question, who is the victim?  Virginia’s Victims Bill of Rights and most other victims’ rights laws recognize the following individuals as crime victims: anyone – spouses, children, parents and guardians -- suffering emotional or financial harm as a direct result of a felony or certain misdemeanors. (The included misdemeanors are: assault and battery, assault and battery against a family or household member, stalking, sexual battery, attempted sexual battery, and driving while intoxicated.)
    To help to ensure that crime victims are informed of their rights, Virginia law actually requires that investigating law enforcement agencies provide victims with written information about their rights. Victims are given a telephone number to call in order to receive more information and assistance regarding their rights.
   Crime victims, and certain witnesses, have the right to request that certain information remain confidential. For example, a crime victim may request that courts, police departments, sheriff’s offices, commonwealth’s attorneys and defense attorneys not disclose, except among themselves their home address, telephone number, or place of employment.  This might be common sense but is not a rule that has always been followed.
   Similarly, in Virginia, victims have opportunities to make the courts aware of the full impact of the crime, are informed of their rights, receive authorized services, and are heard at all critical stages of the criminal justice process.  They are also informed of when the perpetrator of a crime is set to be released.
    And while all of this is worthy, it can never undue the crime that is done.  And, for that reason, I am always willing to travel to events like the one held at the courthouse – official duty or not.
   Delegate Albert Pollard, Jr., represents the 99th District in Virginia’s House of Delegates.  You may contact his office in Lancaster Courthouse at (804) 462-5940 or visit his website at www.albertpollard.com.

Delegate Albert C. Pollard, Jr.

New group will fight O’Gara in County

   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.

Betsy Ficklin

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