Letters to the editor 3/23

March 24, 2003

Information from PenMar hasn't come easily

To the editor:

I'm writing in response to PenMar Development Corporation (PMDC) Executive Director Rich Rook's recent letter wherein he berates me and other members of the Cascade Committee for providing "as usual...grossly incorrect" information concerning the firing range and other issues at Fort Ritchie.

In view of the fact that I and others in our organization put forth a huge effort over the past year to successfully force PMDC to finally begin sharing Fort Ritchie-related information with the public, I can assure you that any factual mistakes we may have made were not intentional and we regret them.

As a result of our efforts mentioned above, copies of PMDC's board meeting minutes, annual reports and other public records are, for the first time since PMDC's creation over five years ago, now available to the public and the press at the Blue Ridge Summit library and, increasingly, on our Web site at


Beyond the documents we have squeezed out of PMDC, we know of virtually no other detailed, written information that PMDC has provided to the public concerning PMDC's specific plans or activities at Fort Ritchie. Thus, we commend Rook for voluntarily furnishing, in his letter, the most detailed written information that we can ever recollect PMDC providing, at any time, on any matter, concerning any public interest issue at Fort Ritchie.

Hopefully his facts about PMDC's firing range dealings with the county and the sheriff's office are correct, although we question whether they are complete. In that regard, we challenge PMDC to provide the public with accurate and complete written information on the history and status of both the firing range and gymnasium issues.

The public deserves to know exactly why these two gifts from the federal government to Washington County remain moth-balled and unused even though Washington County government and community organizations want and need to immediately put them to good use.

If PMDC doesn't have all the pertinent information on these issues, rest assured we will do our best to help fill in the blanks.

If PMDC spent less time going after me and other citizens concerned about the secrecy and lack of progress at Fort Ritchie and focused instead on finding creative ways to employ the assets it is sitting on - including more than $3.5 million in cash steered its way by the U.S. government - we believe more buildings and property would be in use today by businesses and by community organizations such as the C.L. Youth Sports Organization and the sheriff's department.

Because that has not happened, buildings like the gym, firing range, and other base assets continue to sit empty and slowly deteriorate.

Our goal is to prompt the County Commissioners, the county's delegation to the Maryland General Assembly, Rep. Bartlett, Senators Sarbanes and Mikulski and anybody else concerned with government waste to pressure PMDC to either quit thwarting civilian base re-use at Fort Ritchie or step out of the way.

Karl Weissenbach

Opposition to sludge should be no mystery

To the editor:

A local farmer states that he is mystified as to why so many residents are upset because he spreads bio-solids (sewage sludge) over his fields. Later in this front page article (March 4), the article states that "biosolidsdon't cost him anythingthe company he gets it from spreads it on his fields (free labor) and plows his ground for him (also free labor)and this saves him money."

Sounds like he can't have it much better to me. Free sludge and free labor mean he gets a good bite into that fine American pie. Can anyone say "duh" here? It doesn't occur to him, as long as he gets his slice of the American pie, that even Tom Sweeney, a biosolid coordinator in the Pennsylvania DEP, states that "investigations have shown a connection between the sludge and reported illnesses."

Does it occur to this farmer that some people just may not want to have heavy metals and pathogens dumped next to their residences where small children might be playing nearby? I trust this local farmer proudly lives in a farmhouse next to this "stuff."

I suppose greed is part of the American way, but isn't it a little odd that one individual is "mystified" at what so many others seem to understand as dangerous. He's mystified while land depreciates in value. He's mystified while pathogens blow in the dry summer breeze. He's mystified while others fear their drinking water supply could become contaminated with "stuff" he probably would never consider feeding his own farm animals, let alone our children.

He's mystified why no one else wants this stuff. I suppose it's mystifying that I love my family so much to fight this. I'm sorry, mystified is not the proper word here, but I don't want to step on anyone's "sludge." I'll just leave you mystified at my thoughts.

Greg Strine
Greencastle, Pa.

A world hero in Tony Blair

To the editor:

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