Residents uneasy about Fort Polk expansion

By By Jim Beam / American Press

BATON ROUGE — Some residents who live in an area where Fort Polk wants to expand are uneasy over the possibility they could

be forced to move from homes where they were born, according to Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville.

Fort Polk is purchasing 100,000 acres to double the size of the post. And 67 homes on Peason Ridge are affected.

Promises that eminent domain wouldn’t be used to take acquire property are now in doubt, Armes said. That is the process that

allows government to take personal property for public use with just compensation.

Fort Polk commanders have said one thing, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is saying something else, Armes said.

The American Press reported in March 2009 that some of the residents of the areas in question were members of families whose land was taken

by eminent domain in 1941 for the expansion of Camp Polk. It left some deep scars in that community.

Brig. Gen. James C. Yarbrough, commander of the Joint Readiness Training Center at the time, told residents at a 2009 meeting

that eminent domain wouldn’t be used to take their property.

“We’ll do business with willing folks,” Yarbrough said. “If you don’t like it, you make a counteroffer and it’s a deal or

no deal. If someone doesn’t want to sell, the Army will have to rework its plan.”

Armes said those same residents now believe the Corps of Engineers might take the property one way or the other. “They are

scared,” he said. And he added that the lack of information compounds the problem.

U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s staff said eminent domain won’t happen, but Armes said folks are still uneasy.

Armes is urging residents to contact the state’s congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., and let its members know they

are worried. He also made a plea to officials involved in the process.

“Please don’t take their property,” he said.