Home Uncategorized Tensions between city, rail line heat up

Tensions between city, rail line heat up

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LOCKESBURG – Continued wrangling with a Tennessee based rail management company has prompted the city of Lockesburg to adopt a workaround for their huge water and sewer projects.
In a joint report to the city council during their regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening, city attorney Erin Hunter and engineering firm liason Robin Rice detailed the further demands that Omega Rail Management has made of the city to agree to the project as planned. According to Hunter, the group, which manages the De Queen – Eastern rail line that runs through the town, had stated to her that they would not permit the city to replace the sewer and water lines running under the railway, or the 114 foot right of way on either side of the tracks, without receiving a payment of $500 per line plus $500 per line per year in perpetuity. This would amount to $3,500 per year after an initial payment of $7,000 – on top of $17,000 that the city has already paid the rail management group.
Rice stated that the group had additionally demanded that the city arrange for Centerpoint Energy, a natural gas supplier, to pay the rail company in perpetuity for a line that they have passing under the railway as well. She reported that the unreasonable nature of the demands has prompted an alteration to the original plan for replacing the city’s water and sewer lines. The new plan would leave the pipes that currently pass under the rail line, which are all concrete encased and under much less threat of rupture than elsewhere, she stated. The new lines would be tied in to those existing lines where they join the railway’s right of way and have cross-connections and shutoff valves in case of a break under the tracks, she said.
Hunter then stated that with this new design, the city would not deal with the rail management company further, except to attempt to retrieve the previous payment of $17,000.
Council members noted that the difficulty in dealing with Omega Rail Management has delayed the sewer project by more than a year, and also impacted the water project by several weeks. They quickly approved the change to the water and sewer system updates on a unanimous vote.
Rice then reported that aside from the difficulties in dealing with the rail company, all work with the two projects is progressing well.
A second major note was the disclosure of the amount the city received from sales taxes for the month of May, the first month for which the city has received funds. According to city deputy clerk Jo Anna Giusti, the city received $2,385.38 for the month on the half percent sales tax for the city approved by voters last November. The city also collected an additional $1,192.79 for the campus of Cossatot Community College to open in the town.
The council also heard from city fire chief Doug Currence about a range of issues the department is currently dealing with. He noted that many people on the department have had training required to qualify the department for further funding, but have not yet reported that training. He also requested to move two fire hydrants in conjunction with the water system project to better accommodate townspeople, which Rice readily agreed to. Then council member Donna Gallaher noted for Currence that the payments the city makes for firefighter retirement has increased to $52.68 per firefighter per month, and asked whether all people listed on the department’s roster were active with the department. Currence, who seemed surprised by the amount paid by the city each month, promised that he would make sure that every person listed on the roster will be active with the department.
Other items heard at the meeting include:
• The passage of a resolution defining fixed assets of the city as being more than $2,500 in value, and with a usable life of more than one year
• A report from park director Sheila Ruth about the recent Independence Day celebration hosted at the park, including more than $12,000 in revenue from an auction at the event
• Approval for city employees to attend training classes in Murfreesboro, Fayetteville and northeast Arkansas
• A discussion about hiring a certified sewer specialist for the city
• A discussion about asking contractors who have submitted bids on repairs to the city hall to revise those bids
• Requests to place a stop sign at the junction of Steel St. and East Steel St. and to place a “children at play” sign near the city park on Hwy. 71