Calera combats rail companies

Published 10:16 pm Monday, February 1, 2010

Calera officials said the city could begin saving thousands of dollars each year on railroad-related costs after the City Council voted to enter into a contract with Eagle 1 Resources.

Through its contract with the Auburn-based company, Calera could begin saving more than $2,700 in annual right-of-way payments to the Norfolk Southern Railroad, explained Calera Public Works Director David Jones.

The city may also save more than $17,500 each time the city runs a utility line underneath railroad tracks, Jones added.

Eagle 1 Resources specializes in eliminating railroad companies’ right-of-way and utility easement charges to municipalities by “standing up” to the railroad companies, said Calera Mayor Jon Graham.

“For years, the railroad has taken it upon themselves to charge us and other cities that right-of-way charge,” Jones told the council. “(Eagle 1 Resources) has beaten the railroad companies in 100 percent of (their) cases.”

The City Council agreed to enter into a $6,000 contract with Eagle 1, and agreed to pay a $750 fee to the company to enter into a group of other cities also under contract with Eagle 1.

“The $750 membership fee is to join a group, kind of like a class action lawsuit Eagle 1 has against the railroad companies,” Jones said. “Through that, Eagle 1 will fight that $20,000 cost to run any kind of utility under a railroad.

“Basically, we would pay $2,500 instead of $20,000 to Norfolk Southern like we do now,” Jones added.

A few councilmen applauded the move, saying it could reduce the city’s railroad-related costs considerably.

“It definitely sounds like a good idea to me,” said Councilman Ernest Montgomery.

“With two railroads in town, I think this will be a real plus for us,” Councilman Chris Bunn added.

In other business, the council agreed to seek bids to repave heavily worn residential roads in the Meriweather subdivision.

The move came after the city’s previous administration collected about $18,000 in bond money from the neighborhood developer, but was unable to secure enough money to repave the residential streets, said City Engineer Chris Pappas.

“The city needs to act responsible from this day forward,” said Graham. “Let’s get this dealt with because this is not fair.”

“What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. This was wrong,” said Councilman Ed Gentry. “The city got that bond money, and it needs to repave those roads.”