Friday, March 21, 2008

Challenges Veracity of F & M Letter to Intell / New Era

Nancy Collins, Franklin & Marshall Vice President for Communications, in a letter published Mar. 15 in the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, charged that a Mar. 8 column by New Era columnist Carol Petersen ("F&M's what's-good-for-us-is-good-for-you concept") contained "a number of inaccuracies."

One of these "inaccuracies" that Ms. Collins attempts to correct has to do with the Norfolk Southern Dillerville Rail Yard project. Ms. Collins writes that this "project would extend the yard approximately one-eighth of a mile westward along the rail line." Ms. Collins added, "This project provides operational capacity for Norfolk Southern but will not change the types of products handled in the Dillerville yard nor the train schedules."

Doesn't Ms. Collins know that the railroad's switching yard will be moved from its present location in F&M's North Campus to a tract of land in proximity to Long's Park and several up-scale residential neighborhoods in the Farmingdale Road area?

The purpose, said F&M spokesperson Keith Orris at a public meeting on Feb. 19, 2007, that was covered in the Intelligencer Journal on Feb. 20 ("Land swap draws fire," Lori van Ingen) is to "give the college a place to relocate its athletic campus."

This planned "land swap" will result in the switching yard being only a football field's length away from a number of well-maintained and expensive homes. These homeowners have valid concerns regarding increased noise and pollution and a very likely drop in property values.

Mr. Orris was also quoted in that story as saying that the "residents won't be able to stop the railroad from expanding" and promised that F&M would build "sound walls." The same news story quotes a Manheim Twp. resident as saying that the "sound walls" would cause the sound to carry "over the walls" into East Hempfield.

The story stated that residents said that they wanted to talk to the railroad before the design phase, but Keith Orris responded: "Design and engineering will take place through the beginning of 2008 before the plan will be brought to government officials and the public." This means that the residents would only be allowed to comment on a plan that had already been finalized in agreement by F&M and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

In her letter-to-the-editor, Ms. Collins said that Ms. Petersen should have "attempted to learn how these projects could benefit Lancaster before expressing an opinion publicly." Doesn't Ms. Collins know that this project is not in Lancaster or even Lancaster Township? According to the Feb. 20 New Era story quoted above, the land swap would be "entirely within Manheim Township." Since the switching yard is being placed near several housing developments, how can this possibly benefit those homeowners?

Ms. Collins concludes her letter by saying, "We urge the New Era to hold its columnists to the same journalistic standards as it does its news writers, including checking facts, staying informed and adhering to professional standards when conducting interviews." But her letter, which criticizes Ms. Petersen for other "inaccuracies" as well, exhibits a decided lack of factual information. It is as short on facts as it is long on rhetoric.