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Council members respond to mayor’s stance on CSX

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By The Staff

To the editor:

To maintain the city’s quiet zone, we must install median separators at the intersection of First and Main, and either close the south side of Second Street or install crossing gates by June. 

Mayor Carter blames the city council for its plans to close Second Street and maintain the quiet zone. The city council has only voted on a resolution regarding safety improvements at the Second Street crossing to meet CSX regulations. A decision to close Second Street can only be done by ordinance, and a second reading of that ordinance is Nov. 2. 

Mayor Carter criticizes the council for actually doing something while she has done nothing.

In a letter from CSX representative Cliff Stayton, he advised the normal time frame to install gates is 18-24 months and CSX can’t commit to the June 3 deadline for Second Street. If gates aren’t installed in time, the city will lose the quiet zone. Council members won’t allow that to happen. 

Mayor Carter’s lack of action puts our quiet zone at risk. The mayor dropped the ball, doing nothing for six years. In the 11th hour, she formed a new CSX committee to try and solve the problem she created. Over the past several months, CSX committee chairperson Melanie Woosley and I have worked to find a way to keep Second Street open and have gates installed. However at this late date, the likelihood of gates being installed timely is small. Most likely, money spent on gates at this point would ultimately not be used at Second Street, and we would be in the same position next spring to either close Second Street or lose the Quiet Zone. If we go this route as advocated by Mayor Carter, the city will spend about $200,000 for no reason and the quiet zone will be further jeopardized.

There are two reasons the council voted down the mayor’s resolution Sept. 1. It was redundant. In July, the council gave her authority to seek guarantees from CSX that crossing gates could be installed by the deadline. Unfortunately she can’t obtain those guarantees. The resolution also provided complete authority for the mayor to spend taxpayer money however she sees fit, without council approval, with regard to this issue. For the council to give the mayor blanket authority would be highly irresponsible.

History shows Mayor Carter fails to communicate, waits until the last minute and spends large amounts of taxpayer dollars regardless of reasons or consequences. Ask her why she spent $125,000 on skate park equipment in the last year without city council approval. That money could’ve been used on crossing gates. Ask her why she spent $10,000 on unattractive yellow and black quick curbs at First and Main (again without council approval), when the council planned to install concrete median barriers according to CSX recommendations. Finally, ask her why she wants to raise property taxes by 10 percent. These and other issues will be discussed at the Sept. 8 meeting.

Jason E. Taylor, La Grange City Council 

 

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To the editor:

I offer facts, not false hope. Second Street is a hazardous crossing according to the Federal Railroad Administration, and to maintain our quiet zone, we must make improvements.

Our options in June were:

• Install gates at Second Street and make it one way. It takes at least 18 months for CSX to install gates, and we’re nine months from our deadline. This method forfeits the quiet zone.  

• Make Second Street a private crossing with a locked electric gate for fire department access only. When the fire department moves, the street will be permanently closed.

• Close the Second Street crossing permanently. Drivers will be allowed on Second Street with access to the courthouse, church, Main Street, skate park and history center, but vehicles won’t have the chance to cross. The council voted unanimously to use this method in July.

Rick Rash tried to get CSX to put a rush on our situation and make La Grange a priority. Unfortunately, CSX still says they can’t guarantee gates could be installed and functioning before our deadline. 

The mayor’s letter insinuates passage of her resolution would mean gates would be installed by June. That is false.  I hesitate to throw your tax money at CSX, send in a resolution and hope for the best when I know the situation is bleak, gates won’t be installed on time, we’ll lose our quiet zone and never see your tax money again.

Our Quiet Zone falls under the FRA’s less-strict guidelines. If we lose our quiet zone, to restore it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and require one-way traffic on Main, closing more crossings and installing more gates. Those changes would take years, and trains would be blowing their horns in the process. This scenario would be even more detrimental to our traffic flow. And nobody would want to be near Main Street. What a pity that would be after how far our Main Street has come.

The city’s procrastination has backed us into a corner. Unfortunately, we now must choose between our quiet zone and Second Street. The mayor blames everyone else, but ultimately it’s her responsibility to ensure deadlines are met at City Hall. The city passed a resolution in February 2006 to gate Second Street, but the city never ordered gates or requested engineering. 

The mayor claims grants fell through. At that time, the city should have gone into panic mode, but nothing was done.  

As a council, we’re constantly reminded the mayor is the executive, and we’re merely legislative. An efficient executive would have followed up on this matter.  For a city with grants constantly falling through, the mayor seems to continuously find money to throw at the skate park. I challenge my peers to keep the city’s priorities straight.

It’s nice to see the mayor be a fighter. I only wish she’d done so before it was too late. I urge anyone who has questions about this issue to come to our meetings. 

Melanie Woosley, La Grange City Council

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