Fridley page 16

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Senator Williams Says Method of Handling Agents’ Commission Is A Conspiracy
Property Owners Seem Bolstered From the Statements and May Invite Action

            The manner of handling commissions in the purchase of land for the TNT plant in the Howell-Hamburg neighborhood was branded as a conspiracy to defraud the Government, former United States Senator George W. Williams, declared Wednesday night at a mass meeting held at Howell.
            Practically every resident of the affected neighborhood came with his family to the Howell High School gymnasium where the meeting was held. A crowd of between 800 and 900 persons attended the meeting and after the conclusion seemed more determined to hold out for a fair price for their land.
            R. H. Sinoch of Howell, a member of the committee appointed from people in the area was in charge of the meeting. Sinoch said he had already optioned his property.
            Arthur Ringland of Washington, D. C., a consultant of the war department said his department was willing to help the people solve their problems which would arise through the evacuation and stressed speed was an important factor in the acquisition of the land.
            R. Newton McDowell, designated to purchase the land was subject to a barrage of questions submitted by land owners and lawyers who represented various property owners. McDowell explained he was acting with authority when a five per cent commission which is returnable to him, plus 1 1-2 per cent for clearing the title is added to the price of a piece of property. For example if the land was worth $1,000 the owner would actually receive $1065 to take care of the commission and title fee.
            Senator Williams attacked such procedure and branded it as a conspiracy between McDowell and the land owner to defraud the government to which both would be answerable to the criminal laws of the country.
            He told the land owners condemnation proceedings could not be instituted at the present time for the purpose to which the Government plans to put the land. He said the land would be acquired through condemnation only in time of war and added we are at peace now. “No government can step in and take your land right now. There must be a new kind of law if someone can select our agent and make us pay for it.” Williams said the addition of the commission was “a new kind of animal.”
            The former senator who owns a home at Matson told the people Congressman Cannon and Guy Motley was feeding them lots of “bologna” Monday when they told them Defiance would grow into a 15,000 city and New Howell would have more than 10,000 people.
            He urged the formation of a committee to draft a petition asking the Government not to do this thing. Previously he said the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce had recommended a site on the Mississippi River near Old Monroe for construction of the plant but why that site was not selected he could not say.
            Ford Thompson, St. Louis lawyer, asked why the agent should get the 5 per cent commission when its the Government’s duty to buy the land to which McDowell replied “that could best be answered in Washington.” Thompson agreed the people would be subject to prosecution for fraud if they entered into an agreement with McDowell. He warned the people not to let the agents tell them their prices are too high. “However if they offer you what you think is a fair value, take it.”
            McDowell explained in the case of cemeteries or business enough would be added to the price to cover the removal and establishment of other enterprises. In reply to a question McDowell said he did not have the contract to construct the plant but was trying to get it.
            McDowell could not assure the people they would not be put out of their homes before they obtained the purchase price.
            He said farmers living in the safety zone would hardly have to move before four months, but the Government might have to take land of others within thirty days. He added he was sorry he can’t say how much time will be given those whose property is in the immediate zone of construction.
            The spirit of the people who apparently had been resigned to the selling of the land was bolstered by the statements of Williams and the other lawyers and many indicated after the meeting that if their prices were not met they would await condemnation proceedings in at attempt to get the amount they sought.