Differences of opinion on rail yard battle

By Drew Stambaugh - [email protected]

There has been a difference of opinion on how the fight against the Norfolk Southern rail yard project played out.

At a late March Swanton Village Council meeting, area resident Karen Underwood spoke before council asking members if they were still pursuing avenues against the project, and suggested the village could have joined with Swanton Township to fight it.

“To my knowledge, (Swanton Township) negotiated with the railroad and made it possible for them to close Scott Road,” said councilman Mike Rochelle. “They did exactly the opposite thing that you asked us to do.”

Swanton Township and Norfolk Southern came to an agreement in March in which the township will support the closing of Scott Road and the railroad will pay the township over $2 million.

Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle added that the village attorney had been in contact with the township’s attorney. Swanton Township trustee Jeff Michael said on April 6 that the village attorney contacted the township attorney once and did not offer assistance.

Swanton Township officials have contended that they had to make a deal with Norfolk Southern because the village and school board did not join with the township.

At that March council meeting, trustee Rick Kazmierczak said he offered Swancreek Township’s help in dealing with the railroad project to Swanton Township. “Swancreek offered help. We never, never got a phone call from any elected official in Swanton Township, saying, ‘Help us.’”

He said Swanton Township did want money from Swancreek, but Swancreek could not give them money due to its attorney’s relationship to a NEXUS pipeline attorney. “In all good conscience, I cannot, or none of the Swancreek Township trustees, could agree to give money to a firm that is representing the pipeline coming through our township,” Kazmierczak said.

He told Underwood he didn’t know what else they could have done, saying, “I offered and offered and offered, and was never asked for help.”

Michael contended that “We did not ask them to give money to our attorney, we asked them to help with the cause. To say that ‘I offered and offered and offered, and was never asked for help,’ is very disingenuous. Everyone flat-out refused.”

Councilwoman Diane Westhoven said a barrage of negative comments made it difficult to work with Swanton Township.

“You get to the point where you really have a hard time trusting people,” said Westhoven of the township’s officials. “Whose interests are they looking out for?”

Underwood suggested trying to get the railroad to fund a stoplight at what could become a dangerous intersection at Hallett Avenue and Chestnut Street (Brindley Road).

“Once we did the resolution, we did nothing more with the railroad,” said Westhoven. “And this is public knowledge; the township did not make a resolution.”

She added that, with Swanton Township not making the resolution, they were able to continue to negotiate with the railroad.

Hoelzle finished by saying there are things the village attorney is working on. She said just because officials are advised not to speak at public meetings, it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening behind the scenes.

Township officials are trying to put together a public meeting between the entities with an open forum or town hall format.

Commissioners set hearing

The Lucas County Commissioners on April 11 unanimously passed a resolution declaring the necessity and intent to close the Scott Road grade crossing. The resolution also stated the Board’s intent to close the crossing by a separate resolution 30-90 days after April 11.

The Commissioners also passed a resolution for a final public hearing regarding the vacation of portions of Scott Road. Pursuant to Revised Code 5553.045, a petition signed by Jeff Michael, Cindy Burkey, and Gary Schroeder, trustees of Swanton Township, has been presented to the Lucas County Commissioners requesting portions of Scott Road be vacated.

The hearing has been scheduled for May 2 at 2:15 p.m. in the Commissioners Hearing Room at One Government Center in Toledo.

By Drew Stambaugh

[email protected]

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