Fairfield again delays rail decision

COLUMBIANA – After saying they would vote on the closing of the Norfolk Southern Railroad crossing on Esterly Drive at Thursday’s meeting, Fairfield Township trustees voted unanimously to put it off to a future meeting, Chairman Bob Hum said.

The issue has been discussed for over a year, Trustee Barry Miner said after the meeting that safety issues at the crossing and the intersection, to which traffic will be diverted to access the Buckeye Transfer Realty transloading facility, have been aired repeatedly.

The bottom line is Norfolk Southern will not service the facility, a full-service transloading site serving the oil and gas industry, unless the railroad crossing on Esterly Road is closed.

Hum advised trustees that Norfolk Southern attorney Casey Talbot had some safety issues he wanted to do and suggested the township hold off on voting.

Miner said there had been excellent comments from both sides and pointed out all the scrutiny and review the crossing and intersection have been under.

“The decision is very important to us as a board and for the community,” he said, noting discussions began last January.

If trustees vote to close the crossing, they will join Norfolk Southern, which owns the railroad, and the Ohio Rail Development Commission in requesting the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, which has the final word, grant a voluntary closure.

Attorney Mark Hutson, representing Buckeye Transfer, said Thursday the company has done everything it can to address safety issues and they have been working to secure barricades so motorists won’t turn around in one company’s parking lot.

Sherene Adair said most of the truck traffic that uses the crossing will go to the state Route 344 intersection where the grade “is a lot higher.” She called it a “cocktail for a very bad accident.”

Mary Ann Ossoff of the Valley Golf Club said, “If we close the crossing it will create a situation that that intersection will not be able to handle.” She called for some discussion.

Agnes C. Jones said the crossing was superfluous and the roads were there before.

She said not everyone can be satisfied.

“I don’t understand how you say nothing’s been done when you have so many studies,” she said.

Chuck Beiling, a developer, suggested a separate entrance to the Buckeye facility.

“To me that doesn’t sound like anything of a major project,” he said, but Terry McCoy, an architect, said space was inadequate for a separate entrance because of the loop for the unitrain.

McCoy said, “You’re not going to see an issue until truck traffic is there … and once it begins you may see there’s not an issue at all.”

Hum said he spoke to Norfolk Southern’s Talbot earlier and he suggested holding off on the vote.

In other business, trustees verbally approved a one-year fire contract with the New Waterford Fire Department for $35,000 and Hum explained the department will prepare an ordinance for the village to sign and forward it to Fairfield Township.