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SUPPORTERS OF GRITZ SEEK TO ENLARGE PLANNED CENTER

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An associate of former presidential candidate James "Bo" Gritz confirms that purchasers of 280 acres north of Kamiah planned as a "Christian Covenant" center are seeking 150 more nearby.

Jerry Gillespie at the Center for Action headquarters in Mesa, Ariz., said all but two of the 30 lots included in the initial "Almost Heaven" acreages have been sold."We're attempting to secure another 150 acres up there," Gillespie said. "There's no evil intent, as many people would like to believe. I'm bringing my family up there and I intend to make it my home. If some people think we have some sinister idea, I guess there's nothing we can do about that."

The site has been described by Gritz in his Center for Action newsletter as a "Christian Covenant . . . self-sufficient township sanctuary" where he and his supporters "will come in numbers collected together . . . prepared to fight for our families, homes, Constitution and Heavenly Banner."

But the Coalition for Human Dignity, a human rights research group in Portland, Ore., says Almost Heaven will be "a base of operations for Christian patriot tax protesters and anti-Semitic fanatics."

Gritz, a former Green Beret officer who ran for president on the 1992 Populist Party ticket, denies being a racist or a tax protester.

Gillespie said all the lots sold at the Almost Heaven site have been purchased as homesites.

"Right now they're all sold for homes. I don't know what else they would put there. . . . There's been no discussion about building a community hall or community church. There has been some talk about home schooling," he said.

Dale King of the North Central District Health Department on Wednesday said test holes for sewer and water systems have been completed at all 30 of the lots.

"There have been no real problems," King said. "They've been reasonable to deal with."

King said he heard the investors do not plan to hook up to electrical service, but instead use generators or solar collectors for power.

But Gillespie said he and another family do plan to hook up to electricity. Another man intends to build an environmental "earth ship home" out of recycled tires and aluminum cans.

King said that because Idaho County has no building codes, people may construct whatever kind of house they wish. But investors at Almost Heaven must comply with sewage regulations. That is the first step in getting a subdivision approved by the county commissioners.

After all regulations have been met, the subdivision proposal must be approved by the county. So far the Almost Heaven site has not.

Gritz visited Kamiah in May and assured up to 400 people at a public gathering they had nothing to fear from the Almost Heaven population. The crowd appeared to be receptive to Gritz.

Some Kamiah residents have said the meeting was stacked with Gritz supporters who came to town from outside the area.