Thursday, October 11, 2007
Sheriff warns about trains blocking tracks
Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson addressed the board of supervisors with a stiff warning at the October 1 meeting. Trains are obstructing traffic at crossings in Potts Camp and Byhalia, he said.
“Obstructing traffic is an increasing problem from the safety standpoint,” he said.
He asked board attorney Kent Smith to contact Burlington Northern Railroad.
“The statue forbids them from blocking the tracks longer than so much,” he said. “There’s no excuse for them blocking these tracks one hour or one and a half hours. It is not just an inconvenience: it’s a safety concern. We need to address that.”
Dickerson’s remarks set off a flurry of discussion at the meeting.
District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said the problem with trains obstructing traffic at crossings was something complained about at board of aldermen meetings where he served in Potts Camp before being elected to the board of supervisors.
“If he (the engineer) moves 10 feet every five minutes or 10 minutes, he can do it,” Bennett said.
Bennett said he was told a $50 fine was no problem for an engineer making $80,000 a year.
“That’s not what the statute says,” said Dickerson. “Give them enough citations to appear in court.”
Bennett added that a law officer could have to cover two miles of track in the rough to give the engineer a ticket.
“The solution is to put overpasses over the railroad, then don’t worry about the railroad,” said Larry Hall, county administrator. “They (the railroad operators) have no regard for a person’s convenience.”
“They don’t care because they have been catered to all these years,” said Bennett. “Nobody has the guts to fight them.”
“You could arrest the engineers,” said supervisor Keith Taylor.
“To sit back and put up with it, it’s only going to get worse,” said Dickerson. “The board attorney can address this.”
Dickerson said his concern is that some day a person is going to die because law enforcement or the ambulance or fire services cannot get over the track in time to a call.
“We need to get some more teeth in the statute through legislation,” he said.
Smith read a portion of the statute and said a train cannot block the road for longer than five minutes.
“The question is, does federal law preempt state law?” he said. “The civil stuff - obstruction of a roadway - could be considered negligence if someone cannot get an ambulance or something to their call.”
He added it is the responsibility of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to enforce the law on the books.
“The only way to solve the problem is to keep on pressing,” said superintendent Eddie Dixon. “You back up and they think you are satisfied.”
Supervisors moved on to other business.
Tax collector Betty Byrd provided close-out figures for delinquent property taxes for year 2006-2007.
There were 199 delinquencies in the personal property tax totalling $240,000 uncollected, she said. Of that, $123,000 was money owed in taxes to the county.
Mobile home tax delinquencies were down for the year at 522 compared to 736 delinquencies on mobile homes last year. The total for the year at close-out came to $122,000 with $77,000 of that taxes owed the county, she said.
Chancery Clerk Chuck Thomas reported several subdivision roads that residents had asked to be named for 911 address purposes.
Larry Hall, county administrator, reported $2.2 million in loans and grants have been approved to connect Benton County residents to the water supplies at Potts Camp and Hickory Flat.
The Duck Pond improvement project is near completion, Hall said.
He turned to problems with dirt haulers driving their rigs over subdivision roads and county roads and tearing them up.
“We need something to protect county roads,” he said.
Hall reminded the board that Census organizers are asking for help in getting a complete and accurate census. The figures are important in order for the county to qualify for certain federal grants to low income families, he said.
County road crews will replace three bridges on Red Banks Road. Sections of Cooper Road have been paved and work continues to pave Old Oxford Road off Highway 310 and Highway 7, Hall said.
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