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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Council OKs resolution

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

(Photo)
Line upgrades between Sikestonand Dexter by the Unioni Pacific railroad are currently in progress.
SIKESTON -- After several revisions and careful consideration, the Sikeston City Council passed a resolution expressing the city's opposition to the Union Pacific Railroad Company's proposed acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad line from Rockview to Sikeston and its operation with an increase of train traffic.

During a special meeting Monday, Council members unanimously approved the resolution to oppose Union Pacific's application to the federal Surface Transportation Board for approval of a track swap with BNSF which the Union Pacific would use to implement a more-efficient "directional" routing scheme resulting in an increase in its train traffic through Sikeston and neighboring communities.

Gov. Matt Blunt has sent the STB a letter that asks them to "more or less to back off of this deal," according to Mayor Mike Marshall. "I'm really pleased that the governor has taken a leadership position on this."

Councilman Jim Terrell said there are still people who are confused and think the Council wants to stop all trains from running through Sikeston.

"And that's not what we're trying to do at all," Marshall said. The Council's concerns are limited to the proposed increase in trains running through Sikeston -- trains that are not going to be stopping, not going to be picking up anything or dropping anything off, he said.

Marshall said the Council realizes that rail service is important to not only industry and the city's power plant but also to the ethanol plant slated to be built here.

"We don't want trains just passing through," said Councilman Jerry Pullen.

Local residents have noted the railroad appears to be proceeding as if they are sure the STB will approve their plan.

"They are making upgrades between here and Dexter as we speak," said City Manager Doug Friend.

Friend said the railroad is leaving out the cost of these upgrades to skew the cost comparisons with the railroad's northern option.

Engineers retained by the law firm handling the city's opposition of the Union Pacific's application to the STB said the existing line between Sikeston and Dexter is "an antiquated rail line that couldn't handle what (Union Pacific) want to put on it."

Additionally, the engineers were unable to provide an example of an existing intersection of a railroad line and four-lane highway with a comparable volume of traffic that is not separated by an overpass, Friend said.

Friend said the electronic version of the city's newsletter "will highlight and identify our concerns with the railroad proposal."

He said city officials hope citizens will forward their concerns and noted 58 people have already put their name on a petition asking Union Pacific to use their northern option.

Friend said officials "hope to get an overwhelming number of names we can present ... showing how dead-set we are against this proposal."

A copy of the resolution will be available on the city's Web site at www.sikeston.org, according to Friend.

In other business Monday, a public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2006 budget and capital improvement plan was held.

When the city's sales tax was pitched to voters, it was assumed that there would be a 4-percent growth in revenue, according to Friend, but sales tax revenue has been flat.

Even 2 percent growth does not keep up with inflation, Friend said, and the city is getting under 2 percent which definitely does not keep pace with inflation.

With revenues low for the second year, Friend said the city brought in $600,000 less than originally projected.

As a result, city staff must "fiddle with" and "readjust" the plan, Friend said. "When you have the projections and the projections don't come in, you have to make adjustments," he said.

Accordingly, the FY-06 budget should limit capital improvement purchases. The city is already committed to purchasing a new fire truck, according to Friend. One way capital improvement purchases can be limited is by driving city vehicles slated for replacement this budget year for an extra year.

Another recommended adjustment is delaying the replacement of the city's street sweepers - a $180,000 purchase - that was previously scheduled for this budget year.

Some capital improvements, like shelters at parks, may be accomplished by putting in "a little sweat equity with our crews," Friend said.

While the Department of Public Safety may need to keep patrol cars on the road for a year longer than planned, "front line" equipment would not be affected, Friend said.

Councilman Bill Stokes noted no DPS layoffs will be necessary like in the 1980s.

"This Council wants to make sure our public safety is paid well," Marshall said. "We want our public safety to be the best paid, best trained and best equipped in the state."

Pullen agreed the city needs to "keep the number of people there. ... People out there are happy with the way the police department is running."

Capt. Dan Armour of the DPS said if the patrol cars can't be replaced this year, they will need to be replaced next year. "There's just so much you can do with maintenance on vehicles," he said.

"One thing we'll never do is compromise safety with vehicles," Friend said. "Maintenance is going to be a cost."

Capt. Mark Crocker said DPS is presently "second to none" when it comes to equipment.