Citizens of Highlands County, Fla., fight a Blackwater wannabe
By Dan Kenney
Many of us know about the Blackwater paramilitary/law enforcement training compound west of Freeport. We are not alone.
Many “Blackwater wannabes” have been sprouting up around the country this past year. Proposed large private training centers have been brought to my attention from California, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and Florida. The one in Ohio was defeated by citizens. The ones in California and Virginia are still being fought.
Hello local snowbirds. The proposed 7,700 acre Eagle National Training Center that was under consideration near Venus Florida has for now been turned down on their attempt to secure zoning changes. The Highland County commissioners voted unanimously to not approve the requested zoning variances.
Opponents of the proposed private military and security training facility turned out in large numbers to speak out against the project. The citizens filled the meeting room and more waited outside. The meeting lasted for over 12 hours. It is unclear if the security center is a dead deal, the developer, Greg Eagle of the Ft. Meyers area isn’t saying. There is a good chance that it is and credit must go to the opponents who worked quickly and with determination to stop it.
The developers made many concessions to try and when over the local residents like giving up plans for a 6,000 foot runway and firing of large guns. But the citizens were not swayed. Many of the citizens voiced concern that Eagle was just purchasing the land but then would lease it to Blackwater (now known as the Xe company.)
But because Eagle lost this round it does not mean the fight is over. Eagle could come back in six months with a revised plan to try and fit into the present zoning requirements.
Also, De Soto County, one hour from Highlands, has let it be known that if Highlands didn’t want the training center they would take it. The promise of 1,000 jobs that Eagle has put out is very tempting in the present economic environment.
Also, watch for another Eagle Training Center that may be coming to a neighborhood near you. According to a 10 year business plan that was submitted to the commissioners Eagle, following in Blackwater’s footsteps, plans to create twenty additional satellite training installations nationally. Their plan was to make the Florida location a headquarters. Their plan also included the training of foreign soldiers and police. It also mentioned the possibility of “flipping the property” to a larger private training company such as Blackwater.
It seems that many have seen the huge profits that companies like Blackwater, Triple Canopy, DynCorp, and others are making and have decided it is time to join them at the U.S. government privatization feeding trough.
Yes, be on the watch for a private military security company near your home town or winter retreat.
From the October 28-November 3, 2009 issue
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