Jefferson County Tomorrow Claims Norfolk Southern Seeks to Demolish Structures

The leaders of Jefferson County Tomorrow, the group fighting plans to build an intermodal facility in New Market, sent members a memo this week about their discovery of a request for bids to demolish eight structures in the neighborhood.

“The Norfolk Southern bid request for demolition is listed on a published construction website under the heading of Custom/Spec Homes. This represents their attempt to keep this action out of the public eye by misrepresenting the actual construction that is to take place, rather than listing the job under the logical/appropriate section on the professional website. The website is accessible only by paid subscription to the construction industry, allowing for this activity to remain covert and unavailable to the general public.”

“To our immediate knowledge, no press releases or public announcements have been made regarding the… current project. Local officials we have contacted on the matter had not been informed of this impending activity.”

The group urges members to contact local officials to protest a “confidential and back room move” since the county will have to approve road closures if the intermodal plan is to be built.

The group is trying to get the railroad switch yard moved to a brown field industrial park rather than on the farm land, adjacent to an elementary school.

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Comments » 3

Magpie writes:

Norfolk Southern just spent over $3.5 million to acquire 100 acres of the roughly 200 to 300 acres required by the site proposal submitted to TDOT, in spite of the fact they’ve stated they won’t even know if they’ll build here until 2014. They own the structures, and they have every right to tear them down. That they’ve chosen to go forward with the demolition in secret is no surprise given the fact that from the initial contact with Jefferson County officials in 2007 they legally required total control of any information provided or public contact. For almost four years Norfolk Southern and those in County government who speak for Norfolk Southern publicly have claimed that Norfolk Southern was working with willing sellers, and that they were just finalizing negotiations for purchase of the land involved. The reality is that almost all of the sales have transacted within the last twelve months. That Norfolk Southern is again playing the secrecy card is no surprise since that appears to be the way they do business.

At this point I’m more frustrated with our local elected officials for continuing to allow Norfolk Southern to control the project and any public or government input. The County Commission seated at the time of the original proposal voted to support the intermodal yard because Norfolk Southern promised they’d develop an industrial park at their cost, but by then the developer Norfolk Southern was working with had already backed out. The current County Commission voted to do their own cost/benefit analysis for the rail yard, but tabled the task since Norfolk Southern refused to participate since they wouldn’t know until at least 2014 whether they’d build the yard here. While the County Commission rationalized that decision by stating that any cost/benefit analysis would be worthless without the inputs from the “right” people the reality is that no economic model acknowledges a rail yard as an element.

Norfolk Southern is extremely good at hiding in the shadows, and has a lot of well-paid attorneys who are really good at avoiding anything that might interfere with their projects. Norfolk Southern is really good at finding an ally in making sure that any information is only the information they want released, and with it spun in just the way they want. I’m angry at Norfolk Southern, but I’m even angrier at the people who are elected to represent the citizens of Jefferson County who instead listen only to Norfolk Southern and the cadre of secret friends they have here.

efinchum writes:

Do we really want a company who operates so covertly to set up shop in our county? Apparently our county government doesn't have a problem with it. After all it's a private development and doesn't have anything to do with the county commission. Of course, we all know that a private company runs our county government, i.e. the chamber of commerce who pretty much started this whole thing covertly. Has anyone in our oounty government checked out the disaterous mess in McCalla, Alabama where the nightmares of Norfolk Southern's intermodal railyard are coming true right next to an elementary school. Promises, promises - shame on you Norfolk Southern!!

Magpie writes:

in response to efinchum:

Do we really want a company who operates so covertly to set up shop in our county? Apparently our county government doesn't have a problem with it. After all it's a private development and doesn't have anything to do with the county commission. Of course, we all know that a private company runs our county government, i.e. the chamber of commerce who pretty much started this whole thing covertly. Has anyone in our oounty government checked out the disaterous mess in McCalla, Alabama where the nightmares of Norfolk Southern's intermodal railyard are coming true right next to an elementary school. Promises, promises - shame on you Norfolk Southern!!

The County government doesn't need to look at McCalla to find out the impacts. They just need to look at all the facts for the other locations Norfolk Southern has taken advantage of over the years. And the Chamber isn't a private company. It's a non-profit that receives the bulk of its funding from County tax dollars, and is playing a borderline legal game by trying to split the money between the Economic Development Oversight Committee and the Chamber. The way the Chamber is operating at this point is like a quiet cancer that takes over every aspect of County Government because County Government just assumes that the Chamber is doing great things so it’s the only voice they listen to.

You're right to invoke a shame on for Norfolk Southern, and their politically allowed determination to build at their least cost, most optimal location rather than a more suitable available location. But I still say the bigger shame is on our County Government for ignoring their responsibilities to the citizens of Jefferson County, for their refusal to even question or challenge the overall impacts of the rail yard, and for allowing the Chamber to control what happens in Jefferson County.

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