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Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014

Hearing addresses 'quiet zones'

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Officials looking to answer some questions before deciding on issue

SIKESTON -- City residents seem to be in favor of making Sikeston a "quiet zone" for trains passing through although there are some questions they would like to see answered first.

A public hearing on the proposed quiet zone for the Burlington Northern Railroad was held during the regular Sikeston City Council meeting Monday.

The hearing began with an overview of the proposal by John Chittenden of Waters Engineering. Chittenden explained the establishment of a quiet zone would mean trains would not have to blow their whistles as they approach road crossings in the city. "There are a lot of folks pursuing these (quiet zones) right now," he said.During a meeting with representatives from the Missouri Department of Transportation's Railroad Safety Division and the railroad that Chittenden and Steve Lee, the city's street superintendent, attended in March, information about quiet zone requirements and rough costs was presented to the city.

Among the requirements would be median barriers extending for 100 feet on either side of the crossings that would impact some driveways and side streets.

Mayor Mike Marshall asked Lee to paint an X mark 100 feet from each of the affected crossings so officials and residents can see how far medians would extend and better visualize the impact.

Another issue to consider is that the railroad is asking the city to close two street crossings: Ruth and William. Chittenden said railroads are pushing for crossing closings everywhere. "It's their mission," he said. "They are trying to shut down crossings."

Drew Juden, director of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety, has already noted there may be public safety issues related to closing both street crossings and with the barriers.

The local cost for crossing upgrades such as improved lights and the installation or relocation of crossing gates would be about $200,000 if the city opts to close only Ruth Street, according to Chittenden.

In answering questions about MoDOT's contribution of 60 percent of the costs of improvements and the railroad's 20 percent, Chittenden explained these contributions are not competitive grants but money set aside for this type of project.

The main question at this point appears to be whether or not the railroad would increase train speeds through town if the quiet zone is established.

Asked about the possibility of overpasses for crossings, Chittenden said they would cost about $3 million each and have a huge impact on adjacent areas.

One resident, Terry Dame, urged city officials to pursue the establishment of the proposed quiet zone.

"The railroad affects most of this town," he said. The benefits of a quiet zone, Dame said, would outweigh any inconveniences.

Another resident suggested that the crossing at Murray Lane needs crossing gates anyway.

Another issue to consider is that while funding is available for required road crossing improvements, there are no requirements or assistance for pedestrian safety measures.

Asked about "false closings" and whether improved crossings would still have closed gates when no trains are approaching, Chittenden said improvements would not address this. With medians in place, the only option would be to use the road shoulder to turn around, he said.

This is only the initial step in establishing a quiet zone, Chittenden said, so the city would not see required improvements built until 2010 if the quiet zone is pursued.

As individuals and businesses who would be negatively impacted did not appear to be among the 15-20 citizens attending the public hearing, Chittenden said city officials should make an effort to contact them for comment.

In other business:

* Council approved a bill amending city code to include the creation of the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board.

Typically city boards and commissions are created by ordinance and are recorded in the city's municipal code. The EEZ board, however, was created in 2006 by resolution for which there is no indexing.

Describing it has "a housekeeping measure," Linda Lowes, director of governmental services, said codifying the EEZ board will make it easier for staff to manage and track.

* A bill amending the city's ordinance which adopted the 2000 International Building Code to delete sections in conflict with city personnel policy was approved by the Council.

* Lowes presented council members with information showing the city needs to increase permit fees to better offset the costs associated with permit and inspection operations.

Costs currently exceed revenue from fees by $53,621, Lowes said.

Staff are proposing the fee based on square footage for construction be increased from $50 per square foot to $70.

Even after an adjustment in 2006 raising fees from $18 per square foot to $50, out-of-town contractors "are still astounded at how low our fees are," Lowes said.

* Councilman Mike Bohannon directed Trey Hardy, community redevelopment coordinator, to advise the local FBI office of the city's plans to demolish 106 structures deemed by the city to be health and safety hazards.

* Filing to run for mayor, the Ward 3 council position held by David Teachout and the Ward 2 seat held by Jim Terrell opens Oct. 14, according to City Clerk Carroll Couch.

Marshall, Teachout and Terrell are all ineligible to run for another term in their respective offices due to term limit provisions in the city's charter.