Fridley page 48

[no source, no date]

U. S. Files Suits for TNT Land
No Announcements of Land Involved in Condemnation

            An Associated Press dispatch from Washington last night said the War Department has started condemnation proceedings to acquire the land for the proposed TNT plant at Weldon Springs, Mo.
            The terse announcement failed to say if the court suits will cover all unpaid options or only those on which the government has not yet accepted deeds. It intimated, however, the government will make no attempt to recover money already paid under options with some land owners.
            One hundred forty-six owners have not been paid and face condemnation suits here if the War Department’s order is a blanket one.
            Earlier yesterday a radiogram sent to a St. Louis attorney by the War Department over the Jefferson Barracks radio station lent property owners some hope the government would pay off on existing options within 10 days.
            The attorney, who declined use of his name, said he was convinced a final government decision had been made on the wavering question of whether to take up the options or condemn the ground.
            He represents an owner of land in a tract being assembled near Elwood, Ind., where a $10,863,000 munitions plant is to be erected, and the radiogram over the signature of Quartermaster General Gregory yesterday asserted the owners there will get their checks for options in 10 days.
            The majority of options for that project, totaling nearly 25,000 acres, had been secured last February 1 when the government ordered payments there held up pending the recent Department of Justice investigation of Weldon Springs land acquisition costs, subsequently termed “grossly excessive.”
            Two St. Louisans in touch with Washington asserted yesterday, the radiogram indicated, since the two projects are somewhat parallel, that a blanket decision had been made on both and Weldon Springs option holders could reasonably expect to be paid soon.

[no source, March 8, 1941]

TNT Land Options to Be Canceled
War Department Charges Excessive Prices for Plant Site
By Associated Press.
            WASHINGTON, March 8.—The War Department announced today it had decided to cancel unexercised options obtained for the government by R. Newton McDowell of Kansas City, Mo., in connection with acquisition of 16,394 acres for a TNT plant at Weldon Springs, Missouri.
            It added that proceedings for condemnation of land covered by the unexercised options would be started immediately.
            “An investigation indicates,” said a formal statement by the Land Acquisition Division, “that a number of the option prices are grossly excessive.”
            “The War Department still has under consideration options which have been exercised.”
            McDowell holds a War Department contract to arrange for purchase of the land at a 5 per cent fee.
            McDowell declared tonight options had been accepted by the War Department on all but about 400 acres.
            McDowell, saying he did not know just what the department meant by “unexercised options,” told newsmen he had obtained options and forwarded them to the War Department for signature and a return of copies to land owners.
            “That is a contract under which the government agrees to pay the farmer,” he said. “Do they intend to repudiate these obligations?”
            McDowell, after the department decision was announced, told newsmen that of the options he said were signed by the War Department and not yet paid for, approximately 90 per cent had resulted in deeds being executed to the government by farmers. He asserted approximately $1,500,000 was due on the options he said had been approved and added:
            “I acquired the land under instructions of the War Department and the policies as laid down by the Secretary of War and the National Defense Commission. If the War Department wishes to repudiate those things that is beyond my control.”
            McDowell said that when he was asked if he would consider reducing his fee from 5 per cent to 3½ per cent he replied that several departments, including the Attorney General’s office had representatives on the project since last October and knew about the 5 per cent contract during “all that period.”
            “I didn’t care to argue with the government over fees,” he said, “but in view of the fact the Attorney General had been in on the acquisition of the property since the beginning I didn’t see the necessity of picking on me and a few farmers in Missouri at this late date.”
            The department’s announcement followed a conference yesterday in which John J. O’Brien, a Justice Department attorney now in charge of land acquisition for the War Department, took part.
            Other conferees were Ewing Wright, special attorney for the Justice Department, and District Attorney Harry C. Blanton of St. Louis, here as an “unofficial observer.”
            Wright recently went to St. Charles County, Mo., in which the land is located, to obtain information on new appraisals and assessed valuations for the tract.
            A War Department spokesman estimated the value of the unexercised options at $1,375,000. Approximately 270 parcels of land comprise the tract the government is acquiring and options on 121 of these have been accepted.
            Estimated cost of acquiring the land had been fixed at from $2,500,000 to $3,000,000 but complaints were made from undisclosed sources that the figure was too high. O’Brien then began a recheck the government originally had expected the cost of the tract would be about $2,000,000.
            No statement was given here as to Wright’s report.
            The War Department statement said:
            “The War Department announced today after extended negotiations it had been unable satisfactorily to revise the commission of Mr. R. Newton McDowell of Kansas City in connection with acquisition of land for the ordnance TNT plant at Weldon Springs, St. Charles County, Mo.
            “As previously announced, the War Department has succeeded in lowering to approximately 3½ per cent of the gross cost of the land optioned commissions payable to agents similarly engaged in obtaining options on other defense projects.
            “Mr. McDowell’s arrangements provided for payment of a 5 per cent commission by the landowner. In addition the landowner was to be charged 1½ per cent for title work.
            “The War Department has determined to cancel the unexercised options obtained by Mr. McDowell. An investigation indicates that a number of the option prices are grossly excessive. Proceedings for the condemnation of the land covered by the unexercised options will be instituted immediately.
            “The War Department still has under consideration options which have been exercised.”
            McDowell said at yesterday’s conference that he believed it would cost the government $1,000,000 more than his total cost estimate of $2,500,000 if it condemned the land, and said his figure covered also cost of two towns and school properties.
            A conferee said McDowell was asked if he were willing to take a 3½ per cent commission and that he pointed out his contract already had been made for 5 per cent.