MEMBERS of American Legion Post 37 in Quincy would like a response from members of Illinois' congressional delegation to a request to buy a small piece of land the organization virtually donated to the federal government over 60 years ago.
Clearly, this group of about 340 veterans deserves to be heard after discussions have dragged on for more than five years.
Dale Hill, commander of Legion Post 37, said the effort to acquire a 1-acre parcel of land on the north side of the former Lincoln-Douglas U.S. Army Reserve Training Center at 601 N. 36th is in the hands of U.S. lawmakers from Illinois.
"We've been working with U.S. Rep. (Darin) LaHood, and we've contacted Senators (Dick) Durbin and (Tammy) Duckworth. My best guess is that we've got until the end of March to get something done before the training center gets auctioned off," Hill said.
The reserve training center has been vacant for more than two years. Two buildings -- one that has 15,589 square feet of floor space and the other with 3,710 square feet -- sit on 5 acres of land on North 36th, just east of the Quincy Mall.
American Legion Post 37 sold those 5 acres to the U.S. government for $1 in 1956. Unfortunately, members at that time did not think to put a clause in the deed that the property would revert to the American Legion if it was no longer needed for a training center.
So the vacant training center is now under control of the General Services Agency, and federal rules call for the GSA to sell the property. It would take legislative action by Congress to allow sale of part of the property to Post 37.
Specifically, the American Legion wants to buy the land to be able to move from its current 1930s-era building at 116 N. Eighth that can accommodate only 120 people and has parking for only 15 vehicles.
Moreover, Hill said the American Legion does not want the entire property because it doesn't need that much room, and taxes on the huge buildings at the site would be difficult for the organization to cover.
"What we're looking for is 1 acre toward the north end of the property. We would put up a (metal building) that's about twice the size of what we've got now and use the rest of that land for parking," Hill said.
Post 37 has the money to put up a metal building, Hill said, but if the General Services Administration charges a lofty sum for the land, there won't be enough money left for a new building.
Roger Schwengel, chairman of Post 37's property committee, said the group has "worked hard for over five years" on the land deal. "Our request is a matter of morals and ethics, not rules and regulations," he said.
Federal lawmakers say they are working on the issue and confirm it probably would take congressional action to override GSA rules and give the veterans group a chance to buy the unimproved section of land.
Clearly, these veterans, because of their service to this country and their generosity to the federal government six decades ago, deserve assistance from federal lawmakers in cutting through governmental red tape so their request can be heard.