The proposed federal training site near Ruthsburg once again dominated the public comment period at the Queen Anne’s County Commissioners meeting. In stark contrast to the almost unanimous opposition at the meeting earlier this month, proponents of the project made their voices heard. While still outnumbered by those speaking against the project (19 spoke against, six in favor), supporters for the proposed Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) at the meeting argued that the facility would bring much-needed jobs and economic development to the county.
Stevensville resident Susan Hale, for one, argued that the high quality of life residents enjoy costs money, and that new jobs and businesses are needed to maintain this standard. “While you have approved yet more gas stations and food services in the Kent Island-Grasonville area, which provide only minimal increase to our tax and employment base,” Hale said, “you have failed to support any big projects that would provide the kind of technology or other high paying jobs that our county is sorely lacking.”
She called on the commissioners to “listen carefully to all of your constituents.” “I can understand the residents of Ruthsburg saying ‘not in my backyard,'” Hale said. “But any changes or commercial development in our county will have to be in someone’s backyard.”
Queen Anne resident Bill Sylvester also voiced his support for the project. He said he has lived in the area all of his life, and even apologized to his friends and neighbors for his support. The “$100 million in construction and 500 jobs is nothing to sneeze at,” Sylvester said, “and you, [the commissioners], need to give this serious consideration.”
For those opposing the project, citizens again voiced concerns about damage to the environment, noise from shooting ranges and explosions as well as how potential grievances with the completed facility would be handled by the government. While several residents have appeared at both meetings this month, several new speakers, including 14-year-old Centreville Middle School student Spencer Bramble, voiced their views on why they oppose the project.
“For you all that support this, sooner or later, you’re going to die,” Bramble said, “And you’re going to leave this to the next generation of kids, which is me, and I really don’t want to raise my family and deal with the traffic. I don’t want to hear bombs. I don’t want to hear gunshots, unless it’s for geese flying overhead. And I hope you all wake up, smell the roses, and decide that this is a wrong idea.”
In looking toward the next round of General Services Administration (GSA) public meetings, the commissioners approved a QAC-TV request to record those meetings, which are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 6, and Wednesday, Feb. 10, at Queen Anne’s County High School in Centreville.
Commissioner Gene Ransom said this request as well as a request for an agenda from the GSA are intended to provide the public the best information possible. “We will do our best,” Ransom said. “We will talk to whoever we need to talk to to get good information on what’s going to be at the meetings because everybody, regardless of whether they’re for it or against it, wants to get good information.”
Commissioners, including Ransom and Commissioner Eric Wargotz, voiced frustration with the lack of response from the GSA for materials in advance of the meeting, specifically an agenda outlining the topics for discussion. In a move that brought an audible reaction from those in attendance, Wargotz said he would not attend if the GSA does not publish an agenda. “If they don’t publish an agenda, I’d say don’t show up,” Wargotz said. “I don’t intend to go if they don’t publish an agenda.”