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Sell former Fort Ritchie base? Citizens need hard facts first

July 07, 2000

Sell former Fort Ritchie base? Citizens need hard facts first



We've always felt that the former Fort Ritchie Army base near Cascade had the potential to be an educational center of some sort. Its remote location, housing and meeting halls would provide an ideal setting for conferences and training sessions. Unfortunately, nothing like that has been proposed so far.

The latest idea comes from Scott Stauffer of Brunswick, Md., who says he wants to buy the base and set up the Maryland School for World Leaders and Personal Achievement.

To hear Stauffer tell it, low-income families would be bused to the base, where they would meet other people, ride on battery- and air-powered vehicles and interact with students from the proposed Role Models Academy, which made its own offer to purchase the base earlier this month.

The obvious problem with the latest proposal is the same that plagues any plan that involves busing people in on daily basis - the base's remote location and the roads that lead to it.

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Access is by two-lane, mountaintop roads that are subject to fog and ice in the colder months. And is this base really in a location that would allow such a school to draw the maximum number of students, or would a more accessible site make more sense?

And what sort of curriculum would allow low-income people to become world leaders? The answer to that question is as unclear as the school's sources of funding, though Stauffer says he can get $20 million for the start-up costs.

We recommend that the county commissioners view any such proposals with skepticism, and not be in a hurry to sell the property. Should these ambitious proposals not work out, then the new owners might be forced to recoup their cash with uses the county might find less than desirable.

It would be better to lease space to such entrepreneurs, monitor their progress for several years and then - and only then - sell them the property with an agreement that if their original ideas don't work out, the county will have veto power over any changes. The county doesn't want to be stuck with property it can't market and must maintain, but losing all control over this valuable asset would be even worse.

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