Thursday, September 3, 2009

School of Americas comes to Florida?

Eagle training center price tag: $425 million
Questions are being raised about this development in the Everglades wilderness of South Florida by environmental organizations who fear the effects of live bullets in a 2000 acre free fire zone and air traffic associated with a 6000 foot runway both planned by Eagle enterprises of South Florida as a private military training facility. The area is home to endangered Black Bear, Florida Panther and Swallowtail Kites.

Critical Meeting Dates:
The Highland County PLANNING AND ZONING Board voted August 11, 2009 to suggest approval of the Eagle Training Center..
Their suggestion will be voted on by the County Commission at a public meeting, Sept 15, 9am.

The Highlands County Board of County Commissioners' (HCBCC) Land Use Change hearing was scheduled for August 18, and people were encouraged to attend. It was canceled when people from many local civic and environmental organizations showed up with questions. This Eagle Land Use agenda item may be moved to the October 6 meeting, both meetings are important to attend both to show the HCBCC that there is growing opposition.

Good links for updates on these meetings are:
Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition
Save Our Creeks

More info from Highlands Today article from August 27th:
"On a dozen sections of land in the southeast corner of Highlands County, Eagle is proposing to build a training center for what he calls first responders - police, fire and EMS personnel - plus corporate security personnel and soldiers.

"It's going to be a state-of-the-art security training center," Eagle said. "Everyone needs continuing education."

Opponents are upset because they think it will be a School of the Americas to train foreign and domestic mercenaries, like Blackwater.

"It's not going to be Blackwater, or anything like that. It's not going to be a shoot 'em up situation," Eagle said. "There will be no mercenaries.""

Background

In documents submitted to the Highlands County Planning Department, Eagle National Security Training Center proposed to build 100,000 square feet of classrooms and administrative buildings, 40,000 square feet of military-style shoot-houses and three five-story training buildings, 1,000 dorms, 25 single-family homes, 100 multi-family apartments, and two 250-feet tall training towers - a total of 950,000 square feet of buildings.

Eagle would have its own central water and sewer facilities, 1,000 square feet of security gatehouses, a welcome center, and food and beverage facilities. Eagle's document describes the property as 7,696 acres, or 12 square miles in the southwest corner of Highlands County. The property borders Glades, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.

For comparison purposes, Avon Park Wal-Mart is 190,819 square feet; Lakeshore Mall takes up 650,000 square feet. Twelve square miles is bigger than the city of Sebring, which takes up 11.1 square miles.

"It is anticipated that the training center will create approximately 250 jobs with a student body of 1,000," Eagle's document says. U.S. military and civilians will be the initial focus, the document said, but "the international market ... will be accepted for training, education and exercises."

The Players include:
Greg "Eagle is a Vietnam-era veteran, but didn't want to talk about that. He is involved with his brothers in Eagle Realty of Southwest Florida. He has built a Wal-Mart, hospitals, shopping centers and residential subdivisions, but nothing people outside his area would know.

His son, Dane Eagle, is the finance director on Gov. Charlie Crist's staff.

The Miami Herald, in a 2008 story, reported Eagle gave $500,000 to a 527, Floridians for a Better and Brighter Future, that would help Crist and oppose Tom Gallagher. The St. Pete Times said he later contributed another $250,000.

However, Eagle said the Crist Administration will not help him, or play any part in Eagle National Security Training Center."

The project also involves Two Army lieutenant generals Paul Cerjan and Jerry Boykin, and Marine Gen. Dobie MacArthur. Boykin is widely known for his extreme anti-muslim views and the promotion of right wing fundamentalist Christianity in the military.

Eagle was also involved in the "Grove Tactical Training and Homeland Security Center - proposed three years ago in Charlotte County - will be nothing like the Eagle Center in Highlands County. He didn't want to talk about that project."

Reading the comments from residents you can see that many many good questions about safety, cost of the development to local government and environmental concerns like how the water quality of the watersheds of the the Peace River and Fish Eating Creek will be monitored along with concerns for wild life have gone unanswered. And the August 18th meeting was canceled when people showed up with questions. Go to these meetings if you can! Florida does not need another environmental disaster or a School of Americas type training site in her borders. She has enough problems already!

1 comment:

Richard said...

I think it is a great idea1!! We need to fully prepare are service men and women. Not only for the military but for homeland security and police and fire dept. This will be a green facility and create jobs.