[The following letter responds to a reader's comment posted beneath NewsLanc's "COMMENTARY: 'Capitalistic Cronyism'"]
Au Contraire! F&M has never shared the original improvement plans for the rail yard east of the Dillerville Road, pre- 2005 contract between F&M and Norfolk Southern. Maybe Norfolk Southern’s plans may have been open to selling off the eastern most tip and/or working out another solution for the road reconnection.
Where is the documentation that the question was asked and the negotiations ensued? NO WHERE, that’s where. If you look at the projected development plans, the only thing the vacated rail yard will hold is F&M’s new athletic fields. The street reconnection may have been possible without the rail yard relocation. The Nursing school was already planned for the vacated Armstrong property.
The Northwest Gateway is a good and beneficial project and was on track before 2005. Its goals were to clean up the former Armstrong World Industries brown-field, build a nursing school, and expand a college campus, creating a cleaner more economically viable area in the city. At the same time there was also an internal plan for Norfolk Southern to upgrade their rail yard west and east of the Dillerville Road.
But in 2005, F&M College’s leadership said wait a minute to Norfolk Southern and proposed a contract (paraphrased) “If you change your plans and move your noise and dirt out of our future campus, we’ll find a location and secure public money to make it happen.” The result is that F&M College wrapped a bunch of poop inside a worthy and already in-progress public project to achieve their private goals, changing the cost of the rail yard improvements from $2 million in private Norfolk Southern funds to $46 million, $32 million of it your tax money.
As part of this, the Governor gave a card board check for $10 million because the ‘project’ (remember the original Northwest Gateway Project?) would create thousands of jobs. What he failed to mention in his speech is that the Northwest Gateway Project WAS NOT AND IS NOT dependent on the relocation of the rail yard. Both the rail yard improvements and the Northwest Gateway were already on track before the relocation idea was pushed by F&;M College.
Also Gov. Rendell failed to mention that the thousands of jobs applied to the Northwest Gateway project but that the money would actually be spent on cleanup of a benign former municipal dump where there is a viable responsible party, LCSWMA. Instead of being responsible for their pollution, LCSWMA will profit by charging tipping fees for re-disposal of their waste at another of their landfills. All this tax payer money is to be used to facilitate the rail yard relocation from F&M’s future campus and the real jobs that will be created from the public monies be spent on rail yard improvements (as stated in Norfolk Southern documents) is estimated at twelve jobs over 10 years.
The Governor, Norfolk Southern, F&MCollege, and their silent partner, Lancaster General Hospital, all think spending $32 million plus in public monies to create twelve jobs is a good idea. And you wonder why your taxes go up, necessary services are cut back, and you always feel cheated?
But it’s OK because the newspaper researched this and determined that this is in your best interest. You shouldn’t be bothered with details, such as, the DEP inspector who identified 180 instances of overweight trucks transporting this waste from the former dump to the Frey Farm Landfill, the air-borne asbestos “anomaly” during the excavation, or that maybe $10 to $32 million dollars could be better spent on a project such as the Corridor One public passenger train project which really would provide a public benefit and really would result in reducing air pollution on Route 283 in contrast to F&M College’s claim of removing 55,000 truck trips which, by the way, currently do not exist.
This issue really is as the NewsLanc article describes. I months ago I moved from the neighborhood so I can no longer be smeared with the NIMBY mud. I remain involved because this issue is so much greater than a location for the rail yard. I’ve seen intelligent people of means afraid to speak out as a result of subtle, implied pressure from Lancaster’s controlling interests.
I have seen a monopoly newspaper (one of Lancaster’s controlling interests) that even after two full days of interviews with an attorney, reviewing and receiving stacks of documents and recording it all for later review, printed, as a result, a ‘fluff’ piece, which instead of providing both sides for public awareness, chooses instead to be the final judge of the truth.
Whose ‘truth’ do think they picked for you? Do you feel safer knowing the Lancaster Newspapers are saving you from having to think on your own? It’s a privately-owned paper, they can print what they want was an explanation. I’ve seen, once again, the powerful and politically connected get a free lunch on the tax payers tab, your tab.
I feel for my former neighbors who will need to bear the real hardships as a result of these ‘sleights of hand‘ while the rest of us read, utter a exclamation of mock outrage, and then just go on about our daily lives.
What is described above truly affects everyone, every week when you get your paycheck. It is wasteful and morally bankrupt but we all accept it because “Well, that is how these things work”. Your silence is the desired acknowledgement and blessing on the process that the powerful and connected expect and rely on. Do something brave, do the unexpected.