Wednesday, April 27, 2016

County Police & Fire Departments Destructive Training at Ft. Howard

The Baltimore County Police and Fire Departments used the Ft. Howard Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center property for training grounds. If there's anybody whom we'd benefit from being allowed to run training exercises in and among the large old buildings of Ft. Howard, it is the people who protect us and save lives and property, it's the county police and fire fighters.

There is a problem, though: Allegedly, the training sessions required the participants to do damage to VA property. Why had the federal VA allowed the county police and fire to damage buildings that are slated for rehabbing by a property developer?

Some years ago, I was leaving a late afternoon doctor's appointment at the Ft. Howard VAMC Clinic and saw a large group of individuals hanging around over by a building. Some had county police uniforms on, some were in civilian attire, I noticed firearms on them, a K9 Cop was there. I realized it was a swat team. They were waiting for the VA medical clinic to close at 4:30, so clinic staff and patients would not be disturbed by police pretending to do hostage rescues, room to room searches for kidnappers, burglars, terrorists, etc ..

A year or two after seeing the swat team, I was talking about that with two men who live in the Ft. Howard civilian neighborhood just outside of the VA property. They said, "The swat team was using C4 explosives in there to practice forced entries by blasting doors open. They damaged 90 doors doing that. And the fire department cut a big hole in a beautiful old hardwood floor of one of those large 100-year-old houses. The hole's big enough to need a 4ft X 8ft piece of plywood to cover it."

Someday it may be me or you trapped in a collapsed, burning building and that floor cutting technique could be used by those fire fighters to rescue you or me. The police training teaches techniques that might be used by the cops to protect our lives or our loved ones.

But why were they allowed to do that to buildings slated to be rehabbed?

That's all I have on the subject. I never went into the buildings to look for those damages, so I cannot verify it today. But may be able to later.

If the Ft. Howard buildings were slated to be demolished, yeah man!, let the fire fighters and police train all over the place - busting up anything that they'd normally bust up when actually battling a fire, doing rescues or searching for bad guys. Hell! Let the fire department do controlled burns. Let the police shoot live rounds in the buildings and blast their way through with any explosives they need to practice with.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Ft. Howard VAMC Movie and TV Sound Stage

For years, the Ft. Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Maryland has been used by movie and TV production companies to film parts of shows.

The first one I heard about was Ladder 49, with John Travolta in it. But the scenes shot there did not have Travolta in them. Supposedly, the old hospital morgue was what they needed. I think for a dead fireman part of the script.

Local photographer J.W. tells me that The Wire also filmed several scenes at Ft. Howard. One scene was in the chapel area, another was on the grounds. In the clip below from The Wire, you can see the lighthouse off Ft. Howard and the old steel mill across the water.

The long running, Baltimore based, Homicide Life On The Streets TV crew were a regular there. One day, after I had been to a doctor in the VA clinic, I walked up to two crew members loading movie lights, power cords, etc. into the back of their truck. We chatted for awhile, and they said there are certain aspects of the rooms they used for sound stages that make them excellent sound stages.

Another time I went to a medical appointment at the Ft. Howard clinic and saw several large white canopies set up, on a side parking lot area, tents that caterers use for outdoor feasts. Then I drove around to the clinic and saw a woman sitting in the driver's seat of a van - the kind caterers use to deliver food, tables and all to feasts. She was across the parking lot from the clinic, where it was unlikely someone would wait for a relative or friend to finish their doctor appointment. After mine, I walked over, told her I figured she was there to cater for a film crew, she acknowledge it to be true, and I said, "You're probably not allowed to tell anyone, I'll understand if you can't, but can you say who is coming to film what upcoming movie or TV footage?" She said no, she cannot say who is coming, and I let her be.

Some months later, I was there again for a doctor's appointment. Afterwards, as I was driving back out, Ft. Howard Development, LLC owner Tim Munshell was taking a walk on the grounds. He probably didn't have anything else to do, but had to be at Ft. Howard a lot making it look like he was doing some good work on his development project there. I told him how much I want to see his project get going good and strong, just at about a 400 living unit max not the unreasonable 1,400 he and the former developer - John Infantino - pushed for.

When I mentioned Infantino, Munshell became defensive on Infantino's side, and said, "John would have gotten it going except the county government and local community would not cooperate and allow him to do what needs to be done."

Munshell's voice and body language indicated he knew Infantino. So I asked, and Munshell said, emphatically, " Yes I know him."

Long before that, I had come to the conclusion they know each other, because they are separately written about online in news articles and public meeting reports as being involved in, or competing for, several of the same projects. None of which came to fruition.

Then Munshell and I spoke about the movie and TV production crews. I asked him who got the money paid by film production companies to use Ft. Howard, and what is it being used for. Lots of people around town are known to have made money renting their house or whatever for a day or two of filming. Munshell said, "They didn't pay anything."



I just don't know how to find out, who to contact, where to research for the verified answer of yes or no the VA did or did not allow them use of it for free.

The photo is of Munshell (right side) and (probably) his employee or some kind of business partner, taking a stroll on the VA grounds.

Photography by David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center Poorly Guarded

Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center is not being effectively guarded from trespassers: a few of whom are arsonists, more are vandals, some are looking for stuff to steal (including recyclable metals), many are there "to party," but most of them simply want to have fun exploring the deserted and deteriorating buildings. The Department of Veterans Affairs Police, combined with civilian security guards hired by the property developer/lease holder, are not providing adequate protection for the property. Not enough personnel are assigned.

Eye witnesses tell me that people often enter the VA grounds through holes cut in the fence that surrounds the property. Most of that fence line is the border between the VA and the county park next to it. A small portion of fence line runs behind homes next to the VA. Several individuals have spoken to me about being in the park and seeing people go through the fence. Published comments to articles about the Ft. Howard situation relate the same facts. Residents of the homes next to the fence say they see people go through a hole there. Most of the trespassers could easily have climbed over the fence.

Those VA Police had been completely taken away for some months, after the developer's lease was signed. Then they were posted there only on day shift to guard the medical clinic, personnel and patients, when the clinic was open.

After the second blaze, when Department of Veterans Affairs Police were put back on duty 24/7, a VA Police Officer told me, "We did over 50 lockups in the first month. Mostly young men in their early 20s - coming in to party."

The developer/lessee has sporadically provided civilian security personnel. A VA Cop told me those civilians usually go hide somewhere and sleep. Which is easy to do on that property.

There have been 7 fires at the Ft. Howard VAMC, most were arson.

There have been multiple copper wiring thefts from the property. Including at the VA Medical Clinic, when it was closed for the day after being open for regular daily hours. Antique fixtures like porch lights have been stripped away from the old buildings. Many valuable items have disappeared from there.

Protecting the Ft. Howard VAMC property from trespassers requires a combination of at least 3 police and security guards on duty at all times. At least one should legally be carrying a firearm. All staying awake during their shifts.

Doing that job effectively requires: two-way radios on the same frequency for all; powerful, handheld lights; thermal heat detectors that hunters use; motion detectors - some that activate bright lights and/or loud noise, some with a camera; night vision binoculars and possibly night vision goggles; lethal and non-lethal force weapons; cell phones with the right features may make the radios unnecessary, but no personal phones for security communications; golf cart type vehicles; trained K9 dogs; and large floodlights in some areas are a must.

For the second fire at Ft. Howard, which burned down a large, old world craftsmen style, house, residents across the water from there said they saw someone get out of a small boat and walk up to the house, then back to the boat, and then flames were observed.

Security guards and Veterans Affairs Police are usually posted at the entrance to the VA grounds. From there, security cannot see or hear trespassers coming through or over the fence along most of the fence line or landing on the substantial shoreline. On much of the property, there is overgrown greenery for trespassers to use to block other peoples' view of the trespassing.

If construction of the planned veterans community ever begins, security will need to be beefed up with more personnel on duty 24/7. Globally, there is often theft of construction site tools, equipment - including bulldozers, cement mixers, etc.,  supplies and building materials.

The trespassing and police/security personnel situation is common knowledge in the community of people who care about Ft. Howard. It is also well known to people - near and far - who enjoy trespassing there; most of whom are benign, casual visitors seeking harmless adventure, others are there to steal and/or destroy property.

Arson, other vandalism, and theft are a massive, destructive presence. It can grow horrendously, as construction work is being done.

I want to live there among other vets and their loved ones. The painful fact is, without solid security, the proposed development of the Ft. Howard VAMC property will never be completed.

Google satellite images show how large and overgrown Ft. Howard is:,-76.4447086,1217m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0xdf4ca5ebe9797ca0

Friday, April 22, 2016

Copy Of My First Piece About Fort Howard

In 2006, I published my first article about Ft. Howard. It tells some of what the place means to veteran patients, our family & friends, and the hospital staff. The article went all across the Internet. It was linked to or copied on websites owned by people from the hard right ex-military all the way over to the far left where the anti-everything government peace freak folks are. It was even linked to from a Department of Defense site. From all directions, I received emails of support, plus info about more of the same happening to other VAMCs across the country. This article was read well over 10,000 times.

Fort Howard, Maryland Veterans Administration Medical Center
By D. R. Crews
Mar 16, 2006 - 12:26:00 AM

This concerns all of America’s Military Veterans, though it is about a Maryland Veterans Administration facility.

The Ft. Howard Veterans Administration Medical Center property in Baltimore County Maryland is the last clean, open waterfront property in the Baltimore area that is not developed to the hilt. That is about to change. The property is about to become home to many residents when a housing project, named Bayside at Ft. Howard, is to be built there where people can rent living space in a continuing care senior housing community. The future residents of Bayside will not be required to have served in the United States military to qualify to be eligible to rent there. It is not going to be a veterans facility. It is a “mixed use” project, with veterans given preferences on placement in rental units and some discount on their rent. Those residents are going to need substantial incomes or savings to be able to afford to live there.

The only VA medical facility that is planed for the Bayside project will be a new, small VA outpatient medical clinic that will be built somewhere on the property.

The plans also call for a VA nursing home to be erected within the next ten years at Bayside.

In the 1980s, I was a patient at the Ft. Howard Veterans Hospital. I spent two separate months in the hospital there, when my degenerative back disease became so painful that I could not take care of myself. I was temporarily confined to a wheel chair for much of that time. That VA facility specialized in taking care of vets who needed physical rehabilitation and/or long term care.

Sometimes I used to wheel out in my chair to look out over the waters of the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay. The view from there is really nice, and the sunsets can be gorgeous. I sat there one time and positioned my head so that I could see the Key Bridge out of the corner of my right eye and the Bay Bridge out of the corner of my left eye. I did that just so I could tell people how great the view is.

Though I was fairly well crippled up and incapable of defending myself against any criminals at the time, I felt no fear while sitting out there all alone, not even when the sun was setting across the water and it got dark. Ft. Howard VAMC is out on a peninsula and is surrounded on its land sides by a tall fence. The VA has its own police force there. Crime is virtually nonexistent on the Ft. Howard VA grounds.

The VA hospital there has been closed now since 2001. There is only a small VA medical clinic operating in a small modern building behind the old hospital building there now.

There are huge, solid, wooden, beautiful, empty houses in Ft. Howard that are worth a fortune. They were Army officer’s homes in the early 1900s, when the place was an Army fort. There are other neat, old, unused World War One Era Army buildings there in various states of decay. There is beautiful, spacious open ground all around there.

I went to a public meeting about this project that was held at Sparrows Point High School. The developers and others involved in the project gave a presentation of the plans and took questions from the audience. The most important question, to me, was when a 100% service connected disabled combat veteran asked if he would be able to afford the rent at Bayside. The answer was that the rent structures hadn’t been established yet.

Who else deserves to live there more than a vet who receives maximum service connected disability checks each month from the VA. They should have been guaranteed a fair rent price from the very conception of this project and given first choice on anything that they want there.

The way I understand the property plans so far is that there will be independent living, assisted living and nursing care facilities. As a person gets older and more infirm they can move a short distance to receive more care from the staff there.

Except for the independent living, this would sound fine to me if it was only veterans receiving the care and benefits of the community.

But, how did them other folks get included in the deal?

The other folks’ rent money is supposed to be necessary for this project to be successful. Part of the profit money from the rents there is promised to be reinvested into the entire VA medical service. This way the government doesn’t have to pay for some of the medical benefits promised to all veterans.

This project is also a test to see if this theory about mixed use facilities with civilian cash inflow, that supposedly supports VA medical needs, will be successful. If it is declared to be a success, then other VA properties around the country will be developed as mixed use vet and non-vet residential communities. It will be declared a success, because the powers that be want the best for themselves.

This is all about prime real estate currently being used by low to moderate income vets for medical facilities or nursing homes. The affluent want to live on that prime VA real estate now and the most affluent want to make big bucks off of the deal.

You can bet your bottom dollar that they won’t be developing any VA properties into housing projects in less desirable areas where real estate prices are low.

Even if they just allowed vets along with their spouses, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, friends and/or live in lovers to move into the community, there are far too many problems that come with allowing non-VA Patients or Staff to move in on VA Property.

The VA police force will not remain at Ft. Howard. How can they? They can’t enforce all VA rules against people who have civilian rights in their homes. The VA cops aren’t equipped to handle domestic arguments or other family problems. They have no jail cells. Other police agencies have to be called in to give them backup in any overwhelming, bad situation.

Who is going to provide emergency medical service?

Retirement communities receive a lot of EMS service. Can you imagine a person quietly waiting for a local county EMS team to arrive when their non-veteran loved one is dying just outside the door of a VA medical clinic?

Adding to these problems of providing any emergency services to Bayside at Ft. Howard, is that everything is exacerbated by the VA property’s location out on the end of a peninsula and at the end of a long, two lane road. That somewhat isolated property is about six miles from the closest fire house and down in where there is currently a minute number of county police patrols. The nearest hospital emergency room is many miles away and you have to drive through all kinds of traffic problems to get there.

The ingress and egress routes for Ft. Howard are very limited. They can not handle much more traffic than they do now. There are really only two routes: the first four miles of both routes are the same then one zigzags through heavily populated neighborhoods and the other goes by two schools. A third is available, but it is on state park land where the last strip of peaceful woods goes through Edgemere. Due to the particular layout of these routes, a vehicular accident or emergency road work on one of them could seriously plug up traffic for quite awhile.

When the VA hospital was in operation at Ft. Howard, the heavy vehicular traffic flow in and out of there was at the same times everyday when VA staff changed shifts. Traffic was predictable and therefore more manageable by the police and more tolerable by the residents of the areas that it flowed through.

The future traffic patterns of Bayside are unpredictable, but they will become heavy and intolerable. Changes will be made to the routes in and out of Ft. Howard that will be ignorantly intrusive and unjustifiably aggravating to current residents of the area.

Senior citizen residents of Bayside will sometimes still work full time jobs, often have part time jobs, do volunteer work at various places, take rides just to get out of the house, go to social events, attend sports games and have visitors at all times of the day and night. They have earned the right to live their own lives as best they can, but that won’t ease the strain that they will be placing on those limited roadways of that area.

Residents of Bayside will have family and friends staying with them at times. Sometimes the visitors will be there to visit for a short time on a regular basis, others will be spending their last and only chance to be with the elderly resident that they dearly love. Some will be in desperate need of a place to live and will take advantage of the elderly person. Some visitors will stay longer than a guest should. Some will move in. These individuals may even go to work everyday from there.

At the Sparrows Point High School meeting one Edgemere resident inquired if the road in front of their home of many years would have to be widened because it is on the main route to the VA property. The resident was told that this would not happen.

If the traffic gets too bad, the road will be widened so vehicles traveling through the area can pass vehicles slowing down to enter the school driveways, homes or businesses along there. There is hardly room for pedestrians to walk beside it now, including young students on their way to and from school.

That bad curve and weird intersection at Lodge Forest Drive and Old North Point Road will probably become known as Demolition Derby Curve. Or worse—Blood and Guts Curve. Think about that!

Another aspect of overloaded infrastructure brought up at the high school meeting was about whether the water and sewer systems can handle the added expectations that will be put on them by Bayside. The electric and phone lines may be stressed past capacity too. I doubt that the infrastructure down there is designed for this much extra pressure on it.

Who’s tax money will pay for infrastructure repairs and upgrades? Beings that the Bayside housing project will be built on federally owned lands, will they pay property and other taxes, that support local infrastructure, like everyone else around there?

The well-to-do Bayside residents will have the time, know how and political influence to get what they want at the expense of Ft. Howard-Edgemere area property owners.

The new VA medical clinic has been proposed to be built on a small piece of wooded property that is snuggled into Ft. Howard County Park, which adjoins the VA property. That spit of VA land has frontage on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. It was called the stump dump, by VA employees, because its only use through the past many decades has been to be the place where all organic, natural waste from old trees and bushes on the VAMC grounds was placed to rot where it would not bother anyone. The federal government kept that little piece of property for the VA’s use when it turned over a big chunk of land for that county park from the VA property because that big chunk of land has massive old Army fortifications on it and the land was not being used, so the best idea was to make it a great park.

That park makes the VAMC grounds even more attractive to people willing and able to pay high rent prices.

That little spit of land formerly known as the stump dump is slated for some kind of housing development if the clinic doesn’t go there. If anything is built there it is going to be a real loss to the park next door. That piece of land helps make a continuous, wooded wildlife habitat from the Chesapeake Bay out to Old N. Point Rd.. Any construction there will be a knife in the park’s natural side.

Then there is the headache of access to that little spit of land.

The park’s only access road has to be used to get to the place. The county will want to know who is going to plow the park road when it snows, and who is going to pay for the extra wear and tear on the road. That road is well maintained, smooth, narrow and laced with speed bumps. It has a gate that is closed and locked at night and during the fall and winter months. How will the Bayside and park officials work that out?

The Bayside project’s plans call for a marina with floating piers to be built onto the main piece of VA property about where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Patapsco River. The new piers will be for the Bayside residents to dock their personal water craft at. That area is one obviously unprotected harbor.

We vets used to have a fairly new, solidly structured VA patient’s fishing pier built on pilings near the place that the new pier will go. A storm tore up our fishing pier on pilings, so the new one to be built for Bayside will be a floater that gives in somewhat to the poundings of the wind and waves. It was not a full blown hurricane that wiped out the fishing pier, and any storm on the Bay pushes a lot of water up against Ft. Howard’s shore line. 
Who is going to be responsible when a bad storm damages those new piers and the boats tied up to it? Could that money be better spent on VA medical care?

It would break my heart if the former Army parade grounds in the center of the VA property was built upon and the huge, old trees there all cut down. It really makes for a great open space that allows the place to ‘breath’ better. It is planned to be maintained as a park like open recreation area.

I don’t know who is going to get the lumber from the old trees there that may have to be cut down, but I bet there’s some fine wood in those trees.
Due to historic preservation, many of the existing Ft. Howard VA buildings will not be torn down to make way for new condominiums and other proposed new structures.

I agree with some of the proposed preservation but not all of it.

Those early 1900’s former officer’s homes must stay. They are going to cost a lot to renovate because of the lead paint and asbestos issues and the fact that they were built by old time craftsmen, with hand tools, using types of wood and fixtures that may be quite expensive on today’s market and possibly unavailable anymore. But the experts in that type of renovation know how to deal with that. The houses are worth it.

Those houses are in the proposed plans as being renovated and rented out. Man O’ Day, they will make for some wealthy individuals’ superb waterfront homes.

Those former officer’s houses were and should be used again for Ft. Howard VA medical and administrative employees to rent and live in. That would be a great way to draw top notch people to work at a new hospital, an assisted living community and a nursing home all for veterans only. It would aid in employee job satisfaction, work attendance and employee longevity. It’s a crying shame to loose that leverage for better health care for veterans.

Except for the ancient movie theater, I have no idea what other buildings can be saved and reused sensibly. That theater will be saved and used for the new community and that is as it should be. The other buildings are neat looking and sometimes unique, but I don’t know enough about their state of deterioration, cost of renovation and the needs of the community to make a decision about them.

The hospital building is almost a half-century younger than the other buildings there. It is not the same type architecture as the others. It is cool looking and has some great features inside and out, but it is obsolete as a hospital. It has been declared to be too historically important to be torn down and is in the plans for reuse.

Sometimes modern medical necessity must override all other considerations. The hospital should be torn down.

The large main hospital building has been connected to other buildings beside it and that forms a mishmash of a complex. That whole complex should be torn down to the ground and a fine, new, state of the art hospital built there that is geared towards physical rehabilitation and long term patients. There is just the right amount of space in that spot to do a fantastic job of providing us vets with some of the medical care that we were promised when we enlisted into the American Military.

The idea of building an up to date hospital at Ft. Howard is supported by the little known fact that VAMCs are a back up hospital system for the active military in case heavy war casualties or other disasters overwhelm our military hospitals. As soon as a military person is discharged from the military with a service connected disability, usually war wounds, their medical needs are taken care of by Veterans Administration medical facilities. Most VA hospitals are fairly well full all the time, and outpatients there often have a long wait for doctor’s appointments. The government is not allowing for what it says it should be.

There are many vets aging all the time. Many World War Two Vets are becoming in need of hospital care, assisted living and nursing homes everyday. Korean War Vets are well up in age too, then there are the Cold War Vets to consider. Us baby boomer Vietnam Era Vets are about to hit them assisted living communities like a flash flood. All of the peacetime veterans earned the same benefits. Now we have a new group of recent and future war time veterans in dire need of good medical service. All of these numbers are being compounded by the recent rip-offs of retirement funds and earned lifetime health care benefits that is devastating American workers’ lives all over this country.

We need more space in Veterans Administration medical centers and more and better equipment and supplies and more and better paid staff employed in them. We need these improvements today. We will need more tomorrow.

Not everyone knows the unique benefits of being a patient in a VAMC. The TVs are free to view and there are usually enough of them in all patient areas. There is often a lending library in each VA hospital for the patients to borrow reading materials from, and there are most always donated used books along with used and new magazines placed throughout the hospital for the patients to have. Donated new crafts items like plastic car model kits or wooden boat kits are given out to patients. There are often crafts shops in VA hospitals where patients can spend hours doing leather works, ceramics, etc.. There is usually a small retail store in VA hospitals that sell items at a discount and no sales tax is charged. There are numerous social activities for patients held at VA hospitals. The VA staff hold little patient carnivals, picnics etc., and Veterans Service Organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Navy Gold Star Mothers help out at those events or sponsor their own at the hospitals. Service organizations sponsor nightly patient activities like free bingo games, musical shows and movies. They also do group VA hospital visits around the holidays and bring small gifts to the patients. All Veterans Service Organizations contribute in some way to their hospitalized comrade’s well being.

The Ft. Howard neighborhood that lies at the gate to the VAMC grounds is a tiny community. It has waterfront property on two sides, the VAMC is on the third side and the road out of there is the fourth side. Many of the residents there have lived in their homes for most of their lives. They are basically middle class blue collar families. The property values and taxes on their homes will go up as Bayside is developed.

The lives of the resident families in that neighborhood will be rudely interrupted for the next five to ten years as the Bayside community is developed. The construction traffic in and out of there will be something that they have never had to endure before. The heavy trucks, cranes and other large vehicles necessary for such a building project will shake them Ft. Howard’s resident’s homes to the point of possible structural damage. The construction worker’s vehicles will be in and out of there all day long. The dirt will be flying everywhere in Ft. Howard. Those two routes that go in and out of Ft. Howard will be jammed up on a regular basis by the addition of Bayside construction vehicles.

I can guarantee you that if the project was a medical, assisted living and geriatric nursing center for veterans only then this would all be much more tolerable to the residents of Ft. Howard and all of the other older communities that lay along the roads in and out of Bayside.

One day in 2004, I was down in Ft. Howard VAMC on a doctor’s appointment. I had taken my camera with me and after my appointment I photographed some of the old buildings there. While photographing, I struck up a conversation with two mature women who were there taking a daily walk on the VA grounds. They were life-long residents of the Ft. Howard neighborhood and former VA employees. They told me all about how they had tried to talk sense to the Bayside developers, at public meetings about Bayside, but those developers didn’t want to hear anything that the neighborhood residents have to say about the looming, drastic changes coming to Ft. Howard. Those two women agreed wholeheartedly with me when I explained to them some of this whole point of view of mine, about Bayside, that I am writing about here.

Many of the new residents at Bayside will be college graduates. College graduates average a higher lifetime income than nongrads. Most veterans have not graduated from college.

During the time that I served in the military, many young American men attended college and did what ever they had to do to stay enrolled there, because the military could not draft them if they maintained enough college credit classes to be a full time student. A former neighbor of mine once told me that he spent six years in college to get a four year degree just so that he could beat the draft. Many of the people who will be able to afford the prime waterfront real estate rent prices at Bayview and move in there will be college grads who received draft deferments long enough at the right time to avoid serving in the U.S Military or going to Vietnam.

Any outright draft dodgers will be able to rent nice waterfront residences at Bayside. Those who finagled illegal or unfair deferments will be able to live there. If they moved to Canada during the Vietnam War, they are welcome at Bayside.

Who is going to maintain the waiting list for rental units in Bayside at Ft. Howard? Who will assure us that all veterans who want and can afford to live at Bayside will be treated fairly on the waiting list to move in there.

I am on the waiting list. I can’t afford to live there right now, but if I have the income and inclination in the future, I may add to the percentage of deserving veterans living at Bayside. If ya’ can’t beat ‘um, join ‘um!

I know I’m late in decimating this information. In my defense I have to say that I have personal disabilities to deal with and a tiny fixed income to try to survive on.

By the time that the public was informed of the Bayside plans, it was probably too late to stop this project from letting non-VA patients in. But, we may be able to change some of the plans for the Ft. Howard site to give vets in need of medical care more VAMC facilities at Bayside.

The developers should shoulder the cost of changing the Bayside plans. Unfortunately, they are most likely too hyped up on the projected profits, that they have been scheming about and drooling over for years, to take only what they may deserve. If they were truly grateful for the freedoms that we veterans have fought for and preserved for them, they never would have agreed to build condominiums for non-vets where vets should be receiving medical care.

As for the wealthy politicians who OK’d this Bayside project, as it is planned today, I guess I made a mistake when I voted for certain ones of you.

It isn’t too late to stop more prime Veterans Administration real estate from being taken from us. That is the next step in the VA’s plan.

This is all boils down to one thing and one thing only—the Ft. Howard Veterans Administration Medical Center property is too valuable and beautiful to waste on low to moderate income vets like myself.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fire Damages Done To Fort Howard VAMC

Fort Howard Development, LLC - Tim Munshell and Carl Williams - hold a long term lease on Maryland's Ft. Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center property in Baltimore County. The lease was signed in December 2011. Since then, very little progress has been made towards the stated goals of developing a residential, retail & commercial, and medical community where American Military Veterans receive preference on renting spaces.

The developers have never done such a massive, multi-million dollar project, but the VA gave them the lease anyway. The developers possess neither the experience nor financial strength to do the Ft. Howard development. 

Since that signing, the VAMC property has had numerous fires destroy or damage more than a million dollars worth of buildings. The lease requires Munshell & Williams to take care of and protect the property. But because they don't, they are legally bound to clean up the fire mess and replace the buildings. They haven't done a damned thing about the mess, nor do they protect it by always providing security fire watch for the remaining property 24/7 - as is required. 

Consequently, Baltimore County hit Munshell & Williams with a $43,800.00 fine. Which remains unpaid.

August 8, 2011 - Fire in main hospital building. Due to it being mostly built of noncombustible material it did not spread too far, but did damage the front lobby area badly. In the photo you can see smoke damage above the door and two windows.

Way before that, the Federal VA Police Service had been taken away from Ft. Howard. After decades of excellent service by teams of good cops 24/7. I know, because I was a patient there over the decades and had gone to a doctor's appointment at the medical clinic there and was shocked to see that the receptionists were siting behind a brand new bullet proof, clear barrier. They said the VA took the cops away and were no longer there to protect them. But the bullet proof glass only protected who was working in that little administrative office area, not the whole clinic of doctor's offices- including patients.  

July 14, 2012 - Fire fought by 150 personnel using 50 pieces of fire equipment.

After that 2nd fire on the 14th, the VA's police were assigned back there 24/7. 

September 6, 2014 - During the Defenders' Day Celebration (in the park next to the VAMC), I spoke to a VA cop who said that in the first month after full VA Police service was restored, they had "done over 50 lock-ups. Mostly young men in their early 20s, from far and wide, coming in to party." Put that in your pipe and smoke it. That represents a lot of good-future-jeopardizing police arrest records. The way that the property looked completely abandoned and left to rot, to most people, unfortunately some people felt they weren't hurting anyone by misusing the property.  

September 2014 - VA Police ordered to only patrol medical clinic. 

I know that for awhile, sometime back then, the VA cops were only there when the clinic was open. I do not remember exactly when this period of day shift service only was.  

September 12, 2014 - Fire burns in dumpster behind main hospital building. An electric power tool, left on by the crew scrapping metals and other valuables, had started the fire, but little damage was done to the property.

December 6, 2014 - Fire destroys large 3 story house.

December 20, 2014  - Fire burns house, and it takes 5 hours to fight using 15 pieces of fire equipment.

December 24, 2014 - Baltimore County Fire Department orders developers Tim Munshell and Carl Williams to repair defective fire hydrants by January 2, 2015. And provide fire watch 24/7. BCFD found that eleven out of twenty-two hydrants were not working.

January 13, 2015 - BCFD tags non-functioning hydrants.

January 20, 2015 - BCFD returns to Ft. Howard, inspects it again, sends the developer a list of non-functioning hydrants and reiterates that a 24/7 fire watch is needed. Fire inspector never saw any fire watch while doing inspection. He stated that sometimes security was at the gate, sometimes it wasn't.

January 27, 2015 - James William Folk arrested for December 20, 2014 fire, and charged with second degree arson and second degree burglary. Found guilty of Burglary-Fourth Degree-Storehouse. Prison sentence not listed in online court records.

May 5, 2015 - Office trailers on fire. At 6:21 AM responding firefighters could find no security personnel, so they had to cut the lock off gate at entrance to VAMC property. Then they could not get fire hydrants on VAMC property to work. Fire burned on till tanker truck arrival.

July 21, 2015 - Fire happens again, and VA Police go back to patrolling property 24/7. 

July 31, 2015 - County Code Enforcement Citation issued alleging developer has not complied with BCFD order of December 24, 2014. BCFD alleges that no 24/7 fire watch was maintained from January through May, 2015. Civil penalty of $200.00 a day was assessed. 

August 7, 2015 - Developer told by VA that water lines on the property were turned off by the VA because of water leaks.

November 19, 2015 - BCFD inspected Ft. Howard and found that those eleven hydrants were still out of service.

At a hearing detailed in the next paragraph, BCFD Captain Haley said there were 7 fires at Ft. Howard, but I can only find web published info on 6 fires. 6 or 7, its horrifying enough

Captain Ronald Haley of the Edgemere Fire Station testified before an Administrative Law Judge at the hearing on a Citation issued on July 21, 2015 by the Baltimore County Department of Permits, Approvals and Inspections for the failure of the developer to comply with the order of the Baltimore County Fire Department dated December 24, 2014 for which a civil penalty was proposed for $43,800.00; as well as for a Citation/Notice to abate nuisance pursuant to Baltimore County Code dated July 31, 2015 for which a civil penalty of $1,000.00 was proposed; said Citation/Notice alleging that the developer created and has allowed a nuisance to exist on its property known as Ft. Howard, in Baltimore County, Maryland.

Here are links to some of my sources of information and facts:

* 10 minute video of fire at Ft. Howard.

Burned down homes seen on Thanksgiving Day 2015. I suggest you click on the first photo then view them all in full size:

The following two were burned:

The photo above is part of the view from the fronts of those burned down homes. Looking straight down the Chesapeake Bay to the Bay Bridge. The loss is making me sick. Hard to type through tears.

Here are some of the buildings left to be saved:

Above is the old army post theater. Built before electrical amplification equipment became the norm, its stage design provides wonderful acoustical sound from anyone speaking or playing non-amplified acoustic music. 

Photography by David Robert Crews {a.k.a. ursusdave}

Ft. Howard VAMC Situation April 2016

What happens at Fort Howard Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Maryland not only affects Baltimore area military veterans, but all vets. Because the Department of Veterans Affairs declares their Ft. Howard redevelopment project to be the first of many to be developed in the same fashion to VAMCs all across America.

A Veterans Administration official told me that if the current lease holder of the Ft. Howard VAMC property defaults on that lease and losses it, the property goes to the General Services Administration - where it may be sold. Which may or may not be good for those of us who are affected by what happens there on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay.

Fort Howard sets on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. The entire medical center is closed. It is slated for redevelopment as a residential, retail & commercial, and medical community, where veterans receive preference on the rental spaces to be built. If you do not know the area, or haven't been there for a long time, here is my published photography of the area:

The Ft. Howard VA Medical Clinic is permanently closed. If the first developer - who the VA took back a lease to Ft. Howard from, or the second developer - who now holds a lease on the VAMC property, had done what the lease agreement says they'd do then there would already have been a new medical clinic built on Ft. Howard. Here is the VA release on the closure:

Here is an artist rendition of currently proposed construction at Ft. Howard VAMC by Ft. Howard Development, LLC:

Linked below is a January 2016 Order and Decision from Balto County that levies fines of $43,800 against Ft. Howard Development, LLC for not providing security/fire watch 24/7, not fixing fire hydrants on site, maintaining a nuisance. There were 7 fires. The lease requires the developer to return all damaged property to its original state. Which includes three large homes built - beautifully solidly by old time craftsman - for army officers circa 1900.

This VA letter (linked below) says Ft. Howard Development, LLC is in default on the lease. The letter incorrectly blames Councilman Crandell for the developer's delays in construction. It also lies by saying "the developer will continue to provide 24/7 security service and he will continue his efforts to protect the historic facilities from further decline." He never was providing full security nor working at protecting from further decline. Nor do I believe he is now or ever. My extensive research reveals that the developer is incapable of completing such a project. Web search the developer - Tim Munshell and Carl Williams - to see what is online about those two.

I was at the Baltimore Greene Street VA Hospital yesterday (bronchitis has a wicked grip on me), and a VA Police Officer told me they are covering all shifts at Ft. Howard VAMC and security guards hired by the developer are also there 24/7. On an earlier medical appointment at Greene St., a different officer told me the civilian security guards come in to begin their shift by going back in among the empty buildings to go to sleep.

Fort Howard Community Members Testify at CZMP Hearing March 31, 2016, about the VAMC property

In an Open Letter to the Veteran’s Administration, linked to below, is: "The VA campus has been completely stripped of all metal (including the entire VA campus power plant) without any Baltimore County Department of Permits, Inspections, & Approval permits or inspections." For years, people told me work was going on at Ft. Howard, and my reply has been that it was metal scrappers making money recycling for cash - in liew of being paid by the developer. And taking any damned thing they can, without regard to future needs of the Ft. Howard VAMC property. There was medical equipment, massive amounts of furniture, an entire hospital kitchen full of stainless steel, and much, much more.

The is very little online about the current Ft. Howard "developer" - Tim Munshell & Carl Williams. If they had developed projects like Ft. Howard, news stories would be online about the successes. At the same time they were beginning their Ft. Howard "project", they were working another one near Washington D.C.. Without requisite experience or financial strength to do one project, they had two going. Here are quotes from the article linked to below:

"Maryland has halted plans to build a housing-agency headquarters in New Carrollton, putting on hold Prince George’s hopes for an urban transit-accessible neighborhood that would attract amenities to the county."

"The project, called Grand Central, had fallen months behind schedule as the state-chosen developer struggled to finance the project."

"Last year, the governor followed through by selecting Grand Central Development, founded by Temple Hills developer Carl S. Williams and Tim Munshell, to bring the project to New Carrollton."

"Months after O’Malley selected Grand Central, another of the developer’s companies, Carl Williams Group, was ordered in May by a New York state appellate court to pay investment manager UrbanAmerica $9.95 million to resolve a dispute dating to 2008."

"Williams also has personally been the subject of several tax liens from the Maryland comptroller’s office for failure to pay state withholding taxes for employees at one of his companies, records show."

"UrbanAmerica sued Carl Williams Group, alleging that the local firm had defaulted on a loan from Urban America, unfairly breached their agreement and fraudulently stashed securities with another Temple Hills company."

"That company, Bexley Place Limited Partnership, which shares the same business address as Carl Williams Group, filed for bankruptcy in April 2008, a move that “prevented plaintiff from foreclosing” on the assets, according to the court ruling."