Butler County Engineer
Greg Wilkens got the meeting that he requested with CSX Railroad
officials. He insists however that the railroad still has a long
way to go to prove that they are willing to cooperate with local
jurisdictions and respect public safety.
CSX officials contacted
Wilkens upon receiving his letter of January 4, 2011 criticizing
the railroad's business-as-usual tactics and their flagrant disregard
for public safety. In that letter, Wilkens outlined a history
of the rail company's public safety abuses and their stubborn
unwillingness to work with local agencies. "CSX has demonstrated
a persistent unwillingness to work with us in any regards. Your
dysfunctional and unprofessional manner of doing business is
not welcome in Butler County," Wilkens said in the letter
to Michael J. Ward, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer
of CSX Transporation, Inc.
Wilkens concluded by
refusing to allow CSX to close any more crossings in Butler County
until a formal meeting could be held with the appropriate CSX
officials. That meeting was held on January 20, 2011 at the Butler
County Engineer's Office and included the following CSX personnel:
- - Ken A. Downard,
CSX Chief Engineer Maintenance of Way
- - Kelly Piccirillo,
CSX Division Engineer
- - Rusty Orben, CSX
Director of Public Affairs - Ohio
Also in attendance
were Ryan Day with Speaker John Boehner's Office, State Representative
53rd District Tim Derrickson, Roger Gates from the Butler County
Prosecutor's Office, and several members of the BCEO staff.
Wilkens feels the meeting
was a good first step but is cautious: "The last thing we
want is for CSX to gloss over this, hope it goes away, and continue
with the practices that have brought us to this point. We intend
to hold them accountable to their promises."
The minutes to the
January 20 meeting, recently approved by the three CSX officials
as recorded, include the following stated promises from CSX:
1) To fix and repair
to BCEO specifications asphalt and bad crossings resulting from
work done by CSX crews in November and December 2010;
2) To provide a schedule of crossing closures and adhere to it;
3) To not close crossings without notification;
4) To obtain the necessary permits before scheduling any crossing
5) To review and potentially revise CSX's construction and engineering
6) To develop a more cooperative attitude with local jurisdictions.
Meanwhile, since media
reports last month of his intention to take on the railroad,
Wilkens has received numerous phone calls and emails in support
of his stand, encouraging him to press on. "We've been contacted
by several public agencies, but surprisingly, a great deal of
support has also come from the general public who are apparently
just as frustrated with the railroads," he said.
Wilkens was also contacted
by officials from Pendleton County, Kentucky who have been attempting
to work with CSX to replace a dangerous bridge over a CSX rail
line. While the State of Kentucky has even offered to fund repairs
CSX has refused to participate or give permission for the necessary
work, stating that Pendleton County officials will have to accept
the bridge as it is.
"There is an obvious
pattern by CSX of blatant disregard for public safety,"
Wilkens insisted. "We know there are many, many more examples
of public safety abuses by CSX and that any complaints have fallen
on deaf ears. It is our hope that the CSX officials with whom
we met can and will effect a much-needed change of culture at
the railroad. We look forward to working with them and can assure
our citizens that the railroads will, at the very least, change
the way they do business in Butler County."