Monday, May 23, 2016

W.Va. town is for sale for $1 million; part of NSA base that allegedly collected cellphone data

If you have a cool $1 million sitting around, a rural West Virginia town three hours outside Washington, D.C., could be yours for the taking. Sugar Grove, W.Va, which includes "80 homes on 122 acres, together with a gym, full-size basketball court, bowling alley, soccer field, and police and fire stations," is on the market for $1 million, Lori Aratani reports for The Washington Post. Keeping up the extensive grounds costs the federal government about $4.6 million per year.

The town, which also includes 12 guest cabins, is "nestled between the Allegheny Mountains and the South Fork of the Potomac River," Aratani writes. It's seven miles from George Washington National Forest "in the midst of a 13,000-square-mile area of the U.S. known as the National Radio Quiet Zone. All radio communications in the area are restricted." Online bidding began in February, but has yet to receive any takers.

The town's lifeblood was the Sugar Grove Station naval base, which closed in September, leading to mass layoffs, Aratani writes. One problem is the secrecy of the base's nature. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed that the base was "one of 10 'signals-intelligence activity designators' used by the National Security Agency to collect international cellphone location information and other data. An array of giant parabolic dishes obscured by thick forest cover are housed on a mountain ridge just over a mile southeast of the main property. These, however, are not part of the sale. The NSA, through a spokeswoman, had no comment on the matter."

"For nearly a half-century, the base served as an anchor for the tiny towns that dot rural Pendleton County—7,471 residents spread out over nearly 700 square miles. In an area where good jobs are hard to come by or require a one-hour trip over winding mountain roads, the loss of civilian jobs with their benefits and health coverage was deeply felt," Aratani writes. William Smith Jr. is the only employee on the base, hired to take care of the property until an owner can be found. When asked by a prospective buyer the nature of the base, he responds, “Don’t know. And if I did, I don’t know that I could tell you.”

No comments: