A meeting is scheduled for Friday between Temple officials and the Norfolk Southern Railway to discuss a persistent problem of trains blocking intersections.
The conference is to be mediated by state Rep. J. Collins, R-Villa Rica, and will also involve representatives of that city. Both towns have had recent incidents in which freight trains remained parked across intersections, which officials say could impede first responders to an emergency.
Temple Mayor Michael Johnson announced the conference Monday during the regular monthly meeting of the City Council, which passed a resolution urging the Legislature and Georgia Department of Transportation to take action on the rail crossing matter.
“We were contacted by Rep. Collins a few weeks ago, and in that conversation he requested that we as a government body do something like this,” Johnson told the council.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously, calls on the Legislature and GDOT to move forward with a “grade separation crossing” project. Such projects often involve overpasses for either train or motor traffic.
According to the resolution, city officials often receive complaints from parents and school bus drivers because of stopped trains, which prevent students from getting to school on time.
“There always are public safety issues because the blocked grade level crossings may prevent law enforcement officers or firefighters from responding promptly to life-threatening situations and may prevent citizens from being able promptly to reach needed medical care,” the resolution says.
On Jan. 18, Tommy Lee, who represents the Temple area on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners, said it was time to revisit a proposal to place an overpass somewhere along the tracks owned by Norfolk Southern Railway.
“It had been approved by the state and I think we need to revive that,” said Lee, whose district covers Temple. “It’s been ready to go and the money was approved and so was construction, but all of that conversation suddenly went away.”
Getting a railroad to take action on such a plan is often a long struggle, according to Cedartown attorney Mike McRae, who serves as the Temple’s legal counsel and who has had long experience with aiding cities with rail crossing issues.
McRae said he has seen cases take as long as 10 years to move forward. And City Administrator William Osborne, who previously served with Douglasville, said he knew of a case that lasted 30 years.
McRae suggested to Johnson that the railroad’s trackmaster, who is a regional supervisory officer, be invited to the meeting to ensure the matter is referred further up the company’s hierarchy.
McRae also told council members that it is usual in such matters to request that a city identify one municipal crossing to be closed, but noted that the railroad ultimately has “total autonomy” on whatever action it might take.
In other business Monday, the council approved $4,721 for the purchase of a scoreboard and $16,400 for fencing to equip the ball fields at the city park. The funds are to be made available from the city’s share of special local option sales tax revenues.
Also, the council authorized Mayor Johnson to approve an agreement with Georgia Power to replace 293 street lamps in the city with new, LED technology. Dwayne Eberhart, director of Public Works, told the council that the lights will be brighter than the previous ones, and the bulbs will last longer. Also, Georgia Power officials will be able to monitor them remotely.
The city also voted to hire George Skala to serve as the city’s new code enforcement officer.