Fridley page 77

[no source, April 3, 1941]

Justice for TNT Victims

            The unpaid landowners in St. Charles County who surrendered their property to the government to make possible the erection of a TNT plant are in angry mood, and no one should blame them. They have been left “holding the bag” and they don’t relish it. Consider the steps:
            As an emergency defense project, the government decided to build an explosives manufacturing plant in the Weldon Springs area in St. Charles County. The residents’ first objection is that they weren’t consulted, were not permitted a voice in the matter. They were first aware of the proposed building when a Kansas City real estate agent appeared in their midst and announced he was there to appraise their property for immediate sale to the War Department. Their second objection was that an “outsider” from Kansas City had been sent in to make the appraisals when there were several agents in St. Charles better equipped because of their acquaintance with property values in the area.
            The “outsider” went ahead with his appraisals, which were unusually high. One explanation of the excessive figures is that the agent was paid a 5 per cent commission on every sale made to the government. Many sales were made under protest, as numerous properties had been in single families for generations. Cemetery removal was another item. But after much palaver and signing of contracts the area was acquired in toto by the War Department and promises to pay given. So the residents sought new home sites. Most of them purchased other farms, others small business properties. Some gave down payment. Others showed their bill of sale to the government and employed it as earnest on new property. In all, 250 landowners pulled up stakes—and awaited their checks from Washington.
            But not all the checks arrived. Some 120 landowners were paid in full or in part, but 149 are still “holding the bag.” The War Department suddenly decided the appraisals were too high, repudiated in effect all previous agreements and has now resorted to condemnation proceedings. All of which leaves the landowners with nothing to show for their transfer and the prospect of eventually selling to the government at a reduced figure via the condemnation route. And many of them are about to lose their down payments elsewhere because they cannot complete the sales.
            It’s pretty dreary business all around in which sympathy goes to the St. Charles County folks who didn’t want a TNT plant in the first place. The War Department’s belated discovery that it had contracted to pay an excessive price for various properties does not nullify the fact that the landowners dealt with one of its appointed agents. The matter has been discussed in Congress and something may be done. It certainly should be.

[St. Charles Cosmos/St. Charles Monitor, April 7, 1941]

Amount Deposited By Government Same as Price of Option

            Sunday’s Post-Dispatch published the following: “Suit to condemn a lot measuring 200 by 66 feet in the plant site in St. Charles County was filed against Othaniel E. Bacon, the owner, in United States District Court yesterday by District Attorney Harry C. Blanton.
            “The lot is in Howell, at the intersection of State Highway D and a county road. The suit was the sixth filed since the War Department decided to condemn 146 parcels of the land rather than pay the prices agreed to by R. Newton McDowell, purchasing agent. Deposited with the court was a Government check for $2000, the price which the War Department deemed fair for the Bacon tract.”
            The property was optioned for $2,000, the exact amount of the deposit.

[St. Charles Daily Banner-News, April 8, 1941]

Suits Against 75 Tracts In TNT Area Will Be Filed On Average Of 12 A Day.

            The government yesterday paid into the registry of the Federal Court here $186,999 and filed declarations of taking against approximately 3350 acres of land for the site of the TNT plant near Weldon Springs, Mo. The average price per acre was about $55.
            Separate suits are being filed against each of the 75 tracts included in the declarations of taking and title to the land will not pass the government until the separate actions are brought by the United States District Attorney, Harry C. Blanton.
            Five of the separate declarations were filed yesterday and others will be filed on an average of about a dozen a day, Blanton said.
            The owners, the acreage and the amount paid into court in the petitions yesterday are:
            Emily Estelle Blize, two acres, $780; Fred G. and Hilda Mound, 68 acres, $2480; Carrie Hamm, as trustee for Eleanor Marie Hamm, a minor, 20 acres, $300; Charles B. and Susie M. Portwood, 49.45 acres, $1900; Anne C. and Gittrell Friedley, lot in Hamburg, $300.
            The declarations of taking were signed by Secretary of War Stimson and set out the land was necessary for national defense, and the amount paid into court was considered the reasonable value of the property. Owners may contest the offer of the government by filing objections, but title passes with the filing of a declaration of taking.