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Let's get the FASTC facts on the table 
The Star Democrat - Sunday, March 21, 2010 1:00 am | Updated: 7:05 am, Sun Mar 21, 2010. 

By REP. FRANK KRATOVIL JR.   GUEST COMMENT

Over recent months, the debate over the proposed Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Queen Anne's County has sparked a passionate response. Recent news accounts about this project have confused my position on the project, so I would like to take this opportunity to give an update to concerned citizens about my office's activity on this important initiative.

In September, my office was approached by the Queen Anne's County Commissioners with a request to help bring FASTC to the county. Over the next few weeks, I worked closely with members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation, Gov. Martin O'Malley, and local officials and residents to support the county's bid. On Nov. 30, the Department of State (DoS) and the General Services Administration (GSA) announced that Queen Anne's County would be the preferred site.

This announcement was the beginning of a public engagement period designed to decide if FASTC made sense for the Eastern Shore. This process has included public hearings and information sessions as well as a formal Environmental Assessment conducted by GSA to review the project's environmental impact and identify whether these impacts can be sufficiently mitigated.

As a Queen Anne's County resident, I care deeply about protecting the natural beauty of our area. I also recognize the critical need to expand our region's economic base and create good jobs, and I don't believe that these two goals have to be exclusive.

Opponents of the FASTC project, particularly those who neighbor the proposed site, have raised some legitimate questions about its potential impact. I believe it is my role as an elected representative to help push for answers to these questions, while ensuring that a full and fair process is in place to objectively evaluate the concerns raised.

After the Queen Anne's County Commissioners voted to withdraw support of the project, I stated that I would consult with the county commissioners, other local elected officials, and area residents in making my own judgment on the project. Some characterized this statement as a withdrawal of my support, but I viewed it instead as a common-sense statement that we needed to let everyone have their say before jumping to premature conclusions.

With the county commissioners divided on the issue, many other local officials still strongly supportive, and opinions among area residents very much split, it is more important than ever that we allow this fact-finding process to continue.

This is why I publicly called for the comment period to be extended, why my staff has attended every public FASTC meeting, and why I have publicly pushed GSA and DoS for to respond to specific questions constituents have posed to me, the responses to which I then shared with concerned citizens and with this newspaper.

While I believe this project holds the potential to significantly boost the region's economy, I am also well aware that residents living near the site have raised concerns regarding a potential impact on the environment, traffic and noise. These concerns are legitimate, but this is what this fact-finding process is for.

We should all take a deep breath and allow the environmental review process to continue, because getting all the facts on the table will allow both residents and elected officials to make informed judgments based on facts and merits, rather than emotion or incomplete information.

Frank Kratovil Jr. respresents Maryland's First District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a Democrat.

http://www.stardem.com/opinion/guest_comment/article_1161397b-976e-55bc-9d94-cbe45079ffb5.html

Ben Abrams
Deputy Chief of Staff
Legislative Director
Rep. Frank M. Kratovil, Jr. (MD-01)
314 Cannon House Office Building
(202) 225-5311 

Please visit  www.house.gov/kratovil  to sign up for Congressman Kratovilís e-newsletter and to stay informed.

Be sure to read the letter regarding Mr. Kratovil's comments

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