Yesterday, Del. Chris Saxman (R-20th) said that he’s crunched the numbers and found the $6 million needed to keep the CCCA hospital afloat. Interesting, however, were the further remarks from Saxman, who stated that “saving the CCCA will require sacrifice. He went on to say, “To a person at that facility, it’s not about their jobs, it’s about the children,” says Saxman. “If we have to move it, they’re fine with that. They just want these kids to be cared for.” Interesting. Up until this point, no mention was made about having to actually get rid of the current site of CCCA, newly-opened only 12 years ago.
After having apparently been posted on the Internet for over two years, an official 2006 City of Staunton document has mysteriously disappeared from its URL address on the Internet, following public, Internet and e-mail references that I’ve been making to it for the past several weeks, since I first uncovered it. It was still there 48 hours ago, but the bookmark I’d made to it now comes up saying, “the page cannot be found.” (www.mcguirewoods.com/temp/news/ppea-ppta/docs/Western_State_PPEA_RFP_Final_9-1-2006.pdf)
Although the document several times mentions the “continued operations” of the CCCA, the Center and its property are clearly seen to be within the orange-bordered area on the page 7 aerial photograph marked as “surplus property for private development.” I, myself, believe that this may represent the actual smoking gun that gives evidence to the fact that the closure of the CCCA – at least in the (almost newly-constructed) location that it exists now – has been planned for several years, in negotiations between the city and state over the building of a new Western State Hospital, and the commercial development of its current property. This document several times gives the office of Staunton director of economic development Bill Hamilton as the person to contact for information and/or tours, who in the media conference of 12/17/2008 remarked:
“The 266-acre state-owned tract – potentially supplemented by some acreage from the Virginia Crossroads Business Park – represents an attractive, 300 acre tract on Interstate 81 at U.S. Route 250, and close to the I-81 and I-64 junction.”
“A prime development prospect along the I-81 corridor and has been of interest to major developers for years. Although the nation is in a recession, development of this major tract will take years and is not dependent on economic conditions at the present time.
“The closing of the Commonwealth Center has been a surprise but, given the location of its campus, we would anticipate talking with the State about its possible inclusion in this project. We have not begun any such negotiations at this time.”
If there is ever a repeat of the tragic Virginia Tech shootings, this document – along with one other from 2006 that I’ve found, entitled “Western State Hospital – Capital Plan” (a State of Virginia document, planning for a new WSH, which also mentions the 28-acres property of the CCCA) – will stand in evidence of the collusion between the State of Virginia, and the City of Staunton in planning for two years the shuttering of a vital facility that might have prevented another such tragedy, but whose fate was already written, in the name of economic progress. All that was needed was a viable excuse for the closure, which the current economic environment has provided in spades.
– Column by Rick Gibson