Fridley page 39

[no source, no date]

TNT Site Price Twice Value
Tax Assessment Put at $350,000; Estimate Cost at 2 to 3 Million

            Some land owners near Weldon Springs who sold their property to the War Department for the site of the TNT plant, received from two to three times the assessed valuation of the land, it was disclosed by records at St. Charles yesterday.
            The records show Birch O. Mahaffey, wealthy St. Louis oil operator, who owned 165 acres overlooking the Missouri River, was paid $41,441.05 for the tract, which had an assessed valuation of $1570.
            County Collector William Bruns of St. Charles County said the assessed value of land in the county for tax purposes is 35 to 40 per cent of the actual valuation.
            Bruns yesterday began studying tax records at St. Charles showing the assessed valuations of 123 parcels of land on which R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor, has been allowed fees of 5 per cent by the government on the total purchase price.
            The County Collector estimated the assessed valuation of the approximately 16,000 acres being acquired for the project at $350,000, and that the actual valuation was approximately $1,000,000. McDowell in making his first estimates of what it would cost the government to acquire the site placed the cost at $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
            It was disclosed in Washington the Federal Department of Justice is making an investigation of the fees obtained by McDowell for acquisition of the land, and McDowell had been notified to come to Washington to report on the purchase of the site. He was advised February 17 the Department of Justice wishes to question him at Kansas City about the land purchases. At that time McDowell informed the department he had made previous arrangements to go to Newfoundland to bid on work there in connection with the construction of the newly acquired defense bases, so he was advised to stop in Washington on his return to this country.
            It was learned at St. Charles yesterday three residents of the county are making appraisals of land acquired for the plant site at the request of the Department of Justice. They are John Nadler, a Matson farmer; William Wehmeyer of Orchard Farm and George Dierker. They started making their appraisals the early part of this week.

[no source, February 22, 1941]

By Associated Press
            WASHINGTON, February 22.—A searching undercover investigation of land prices charged the government for defense projects was disclosed today in an announcement that for the second time fees of War Department land agents had been slashed.
            The Justice Department indicated the investigation centered on nine scattered tracts bought under pressure for speed for such purposes as sites for arms plants and army ordnance proving grounds.
            Commercial agents were employed by the Quartermaster General to obtain these tracts by direct purchase. It was the fees paid some of these agents that were reduced, with Norman M. Littell, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s Lands Division, contending that they were “exhorbitant.”
            Paul M. McCord, Indianapolis, land agent in the acquisition of some 60,000 acres in Southern Indiana for an artillery proving ground, agreed at a conference with officials to reduce his fees from 6½ to 3½ per cent.
            At the same time Willis N. Coval, president of the Union Title Company, Indianapolis, agreed to a flat fee of $50 as an abstract charge for each of some 600 tracts purchased, irrespective of size. Previous charges ranged upward to $820, it was stated.
            Earlier the fees and charges of agents buying land for an arms plant at Burlington, Ia., were reduced from 6½ to 3½ per cent for all expenses.
            The fees as well as prices paid for sites for the nine projects for which agents were employed have been under investigation for several weeks, Littell said, indicating that other downward revisions were in prospect.
            Included in the nine were an ordnance plant site at Weldon Springs, Mo., and a shell loading plant at La Porte, Ind., but Littell declined to disclose the full list.
            In the 12 months ending next June 30, the War Department is undertaking the purchase of 3,980,000 acres estimated to cost $47,260,000.


[no source, no date]


—Staff Photo
R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor who acquired the 16,000-acre site for the proposed TNT plant in St. Charles County, shown yesterday as he dictated a lengthy statement defending the appraisal he and his staff made of the land.