Fridley page 50

[no source, handwritten date: March 11, 1941]

Farmers’ Committee Drafts Appeal to Roosevelt Against Condemnation Plan.

            An appeal to President Roosevelt, asking him to intervene in behalf of farmers who gave options to the War Department for land in the St. Charles County TNT plant site, which the Government now plans to acquire by condemnation, is being drafted by a committee of farmers for presentation at a protest meeting called for tomorrow night.
            Today a committee of farmers and business men called on Chester C. Davis, president of the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank and member of the National Defense Advisory Commission to seek his assistance in settling the problem.
            Tomorrow’s meeting will be at 8:30 o’clock in the Evangelical Church Hall at Weldon Springs. Announcement that the Government would resort to condemnation proceedings because of “grossly excessive” prices fixed in the options, was made last week. This procedure will apply to the 147 options not yet exercised. It does not apply to property covered by 121 options which have been exercised.
            Members of the farmers’ committee, who have been talking with persons who evacuated the plant site after signing options, told a reporter that feeling among those still unpaid for their land is intense and any attempt to condemn the land now will bring a “back-home movement” to the site among those who left.
            One member of the committee who, like the others, would not permit use of his name, said many of the homes and outbuildings in the area have been burned since the options were signed and it would be impossible to place accurate value on the property by condemnation proceedings. He said many of the farmers had contracted to purchase other property after giving options to the Government and were now in danger of losing their earnest money payments because the Government was withholding payment to them.
            Under Federal condemnation procedure, the Government can acquire possession within a few days. When a condemnation petition has been filed by the United States District Attorney he may immediately file a “declaration of taking” and pay into the registry of the court a price which the Government deems acceptable. When this is approved by the District Court, the Government has possession. The property owner has no opportunity to object until after the court has appointed three appraisers, and they have filed their report on what should be paid.
            R. Newton McDowell, the Kansas City contractor who obtained the options on the 16,300-acre site, in a telegram to the War Department last night predicted it would “take a terrific licking” in condemnation proceedings.
            McDowell, whose contract gave him a 5 per cent commission, said in the telegram he had obtained options on 16,146 acres, to cost $2,584,495. Other property in the site, for which McDowell had not been able to obtain options, would raise the total cost to about $3,000,000, it has been estimated.
            Leaving out of consideration the property which contained schools, businesses, and the Missouri River bluff land, McDowell estimated in his telegram that the average price for farm land covered in the options was $114 an acre. This, he argued, was a reasonable price.