By MORGAN GIBSON
Capital News Service
WASHINGTON – Rep. Frank Kratovil, spoke out about a proposed State Department training center for the first time in months Wednesday, saying the plan shouldn’t be judged before the pending environmental assessment is complete.
“Let’s allow the process to work,” Kratovil, D-Stevensville, said in a news release. “Right now, my goal is to get the facts on the table.”
This is the first comment Kratovil has made about the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center since January, much to the disappointment of his constituents.
“We elected people, we put them into office, and they should be there for us, and they’re not,” said Sherry Adam, a Ruthsburg neighbor of the proposed site and a strong opponent of the facility.
The 2,000-acre, anti-terrorism and security training center has been the object of much debate since November when Ruthsburg’s Hunt Ray Farm was announced as the preferred site. Some locals support it for the economic boost it could bring, while others oppose the project because of potential environmental and cultural impacts.
Kratovil’s statement was a response to the Environmental Protection Agency’s letter to the General Services
Administration last week that suggested a complete environmental impact statement be done before the project is made final.
The GSA is in charge of conducting the early stages of the project, and is now in the environmental assessment process, which studies the facility’s environmental effects on the area. The environmental assessment will be published later this month or in early April.
This environmental assessment determines whether or not a more detailed environmental impact statement, which would outline the facility’s impacts on the environment as well as plans to lessen these impacts, is required.
In its letter, the EPA said it believes the project may negatively affect the surrounding environment and that it “might be prudent” for GSA to consider an environmental impact statement now, as opposed to after the environmental assessment is complete.
“If the Environmental Assessment isn’t sufficient to get the necessary answers, then the EIS should proceed,” Kratovil said, “but that’s a decision that should be made in accordance with the standard procedures for reviewing a facility such as this.”
Some of Kratovil’s constituents agree the community should wait to make a judgment until after the environmental assessment is complete.
“It’s like, ‘Come on people, let them do the environmental study,'” said Linda Friday, president of the Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce. “Let them finish their study and come back with whatever they come up with.”
While the Chamber of Commerce supports the project now, Friday said if the GSA comes back with negative results then its support would be rescinded.
Originally Kratovil, along with Maryland Democratic Sens. Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski supported the project. However, after locals became outraged at the GSA for not answering some of their questions, Kratovil withdrew his support in the beginning of January.
Kratovil’s most recent statement came in wake of some pretty harsh criticism from his constituents.
David Dunmyre, a Ruthsburg business owner and an opponent to FASTC, said he is not very happy about the “standoff approach” Kratovil has been taking in the project and that even though he has sent representatives to the public meetings, Kratovil himself has been out of touch.
“This is probably one of the biggest issues to face our county ever, and he doesn’t have the time to meet with us, and that’s discouraging,” Dunmyre said.
Adam said Kratovil’s initial support followed by his withdrawal has caused some concern, and this project will hurt him in the November election.
“You can pretty much guarantee…anybody who is opposed to the FASTC project will probably not be voting for Mr. Kratovil,” Adam said. “He’s been doing this flipflop-flipflop. He needs to choose a side. That’s not any kind of leadership.”