Ohi-Rail Corporation's plan to store railway cars loaded with highly flammable butane fuel in or near Minerva raised concern at Village Council's April 18 meeting.
Councilman Tim Tarbet, who raised the matter, said he was "extremely concerned" about Ohi-Rail's recent announcement that between 80 to 300 cars of butane will be stored somewhere on the railroad company's property.
"We're talking a significant quantity that could be stored. It's going to pass through Minerva," said Tarbet.
"If you've been out to the railway yard, there is no security there, there is no lighting. It's basically unprotected. We've got these places in the village where ... they could be putting these unsecured cars into a populated area with flammable material," he added.
Aaron Stoller, fire chief with the Sandy Creek Joint Fire District, stated that the company had stored a similar flammable material within the village last year, but that he said the village could do little about the action.
"Railroads are their own animal. The company is governed by the federal government, but they own their own property," said Stoller, noting that Ohi-Rail holds a 60-foot right-of-way on either side of the railroad tracks it owns within the village.
Village Law Director Clark Battista agreed to look into the plan but admitted, "Whether we can stop it? My gut feeling is we may not be able to. As Aaron said, railroads are their own animal."
Discussion also took place about recent actions Ohi-Rail has been taking to clear its right-of-way by requiring that homeowners remove storage properties located there. The company is alerting property owners that they will be allowed 10 days to remove any items or storage properties located within Ohi-Rail's right-of-way.
"If you've been around, just start watching for the white post. Don't look at the tracks. Look at the corners of residential properties," said Tarbet, commenting that Ohi-Rail is "not proving to be great neighbors."
Denny Varian, Ohi-Rail general manager, who was not present at the meeting, told The News Leader in a follow-up interview that the railway is clearing its right-of-way to avoid liability risks.
"Our concern ... is liability issues. We're going to get very busy. Where we were running one train a week, now we're going to be running more trains. We want to be conscientious," he said.
In a written statement, Varian said Ohi-Rail "is committed to continuously improving operating safety and promoting alertness in our employees. The safe transportation of our customers' product is essential to our nation's economy and to the well-being of our employees, the communities we serve, and the environment. Occurrences involving trains and hazardous materials are uncommon. This is a safe mode of transportation with our trains operating at less than 10 miles per hour."
Information that Ohi-Rail provided to The News Leader includes a notice that Norfolk Southern will conduct several four-hour classes at its rail yard in Canton from June 15 to 17 about rail safety and emergency preparedness. Classes are designed for emergency responders, the notice states.
Continuing discussion about Minerva's new community pool also took place at council's meeting with council members unanimously passing a motion authorizing Village Administrator Dave Harp to advertise and receive bids for the remodeling of the pool bath-house once specifications and drawings for the project have been completed.
The decision came in the wake of a lengthy discussion at council's April 11 meeting about whether to limit upgrades for the facility and avoid a project cost exceeding $50,000, which would require that the village enter a several-week-long bidding process and delay the opening of the pool.
Council members agreed at their April 18 meeting to include upgrades that will make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as renovate existing areas inside the building. The project will require the village to enter the bidding process.
According to Milton Studer, of Studer Architects, who presented at the meeting, upgrades will include a new entry-way; a new walkway from the parking lot; the replacement of doors leading to the parking lot and to the pool; replacement of walls; patching and repair of masonry walls; and the addition of two handicapped lavatory stalls with sanitary partitions.
Additionally, the remodeling project will now include replacing all toilets in conventional stalls, with plans to have two men's stalls and four women's stalls; adding two urinals; installing new lighting in locker areas on the men's and women's sides of the facility; and installing exit emergency lights.
Council also decided to move ahead with replacing a bath-house patio that is not ADA-compliant.
In previous meetings, council had considered asking pool construction firm Family Fun to add a skim coat of cement to the patio, a method Family Fun said would make the patio flush with the doorway, and thus compliant with ADA requirements, while saving costs to keep the project under the $50,000 bidding threshold.
Council now enters a two-week waiting period for Studer to complete drawings and specifications for the bath-house. That information will be available for download from the Studer Architects website, said Studer.
The village must advertise for bids during a required period of two to four consecutive weeks. Once bids are received, council will spent about two weeks reviewing them before selecting a finalist, said Harp.
"It probably puts us in, maybe if we're lucky, the middle of July," he stated.
In other business, council:
HEARD Harp announce that the village-wide trash pick-up day will take place Saturday, May 13.
HEARD Harp confirm that the village will advertise a position for a service director. Once a finalist for the position is selected, council will decide on a specific amount of funds to earmark for the service director's salary and benefits.
LEARNED the village has ordered eight Ginko "Shangri-la" trees for the downtown Market Street area.
Harp said he received one estimate for work to fill holes where new trees will not be planted "but we're getting other estimates to see if we can get a better price."
DISCUSSED residents who are keeping chickens within village limits. Harp said a village ordinance currently prohibits the keeping of farm animals within village limits.
APPROVED a third and final reading of legislation authorizing the purchase of a 2017 GMC 2500 four-wheel-drive pick-up truck for the village waste water department through the state's cooperative purchasing program at a price not to exceed $32,827. Harp noted that he would purchase the vehicle from a local vendor instead if he could get a matching price.