Fridley page 63

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Eight of 146 Inform Land Optioner They Do Not Intend to Reduce Price Of Option
One Farmer Studying the Possibility of Taking Ten Per Cent Cut In Price

            Eight landowners in the TNT area have replied to R. Newton McDowell, Government land agent, that they will not accept a cut from the price they optioned their land to the Government, D. M. Bolton, stated today at the McDowell office here.
            McDowell, acting upon the suggestion of a War Department official, explained a possible way to reach a quick settlement with the Government, but told the people he was not making any suggestion and anything they did was entirely their own responsibility. McDowell mailed letters to 146 land owners and asked all those who were willing to take a cut in the price to wire him collect, stating their terms.
            So far eight farmers answered McDowell and not one offered to take a cut. Some merely filled out the blank space in the telegram with a big “Zero,” while others replied by letter, stating they believed they had made a valid contract with the Government and expected the Government to live up to its agreement.
            Members of the land owners committee quickly told the farmers not to jeopardize their options by making such a commitment. It was learned one farmer was studying a possible ten per cent cut but had not informed McDowell of his intentions at this time.

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McDowell Inform U. S. Office 144 Others Have Refused to Accept Less.

            Only two of the 146 unpaid landowners who sold their property to the War Department for the TNT plant site at Weldon Spring will accept a reduction in the price previously agreed on, R. Newton McDowell, Kansas City contractor who acted as the department’s agent in obtaining options for the 16,300-acre tract, yesterday informed J. J. O’Brien, chief of the real estate section of the Quartermaster General’s office at Washington.
            McDowell, in a telegram to O’Brien said he had sent letters to all of the landowners and had seen most of them in person or reached them by phone and that all except two refused to accept reductions.
            The owners were consulted by McDowell after he received a telegram last week from Undersecretary of War Robert M. Patterson in which Patterson said the department had decided to start condemnation proceedings on the land on which it had not exercised its options.
            “The War Department will welcome any offer on your part to cooperate on re-negotiation of options at prices which will warrant closings on acquisitions by direct purchase,” Patterson said, “and will consider any offer from owners prior to conclusion of condemnation proceedings.”

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Word From Washington That Action Against the Landowners Near Weldon Springs is Under Way
Meeting of Landowners Who Are Affected Expected To Be Some Time Next Week

            From Washington, D. C. it was announced the War Department had started condemnation proceedings to acquire the land for the Weldon Spring TNT plant. The announcement failed to reveal if the court suits will cover all unpaid options or only those on which the government has not accepted deeds. It was also intimated the government will not attempt to recover money already paid under options with some land owners.
            One hundred and forty-six owners have not been paid for their land and face condemnation action if the Government orders a blanket one.
            A radiogram indicated the government may pay off on existing options within ten days. Payment in full on land optioned for a similar plant near Elwood, Ind., was ordered.
            The Elwood and Weldon Spring project are parallel and some land owners are of the opinion that a blanket decision would be made on both plants and payment would be resumed within ten days.
            Earl Sutton, a member of the farmers committee, said he was instructing property owners not to sign any agreement to cut the price of their land. Sutton said to do that would probably invalidate the option and give the Government a loophole to break its agreement.
            Sutton indicated another meeting of the owners of land on which unexercised options had been obtained, would be called next week to work out some plan. Sutton himself could see no reason to sign any agreement as he said an effort might be made to break that also.