Council asks railroad to warn of work

FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders formally asked Norfolk & Southern Corporation on Monday to give notice before the firm closes any crossings.

Specifically, council voted to adopt the resolution that asks the company to provide the town with advance notice of rail maintenance activity in the corporate limits so residents can adjust schedules and so law enforcement and emergency personnel can plan how to deliver services during such work.

The motion also calls for town staff to contact U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte and ask the congressman to stress the need for advance notice to ensure continued public safety service to areas that can become isolated during maintenance work.

Norfolk & Southern recently closed railroad crossings that affected residents and traffic on Mary’s Shady Lane and Shenandoah Shores Road. The town did receive some advance notice on the planned maintenance though the work and closure still affected residents and motorists. Residents said they were not kept in the loop about the closures.

The closings spurred residents on Mary’s Shady Lane to ask the town to declare the crossing public. Town Council has not acted on that request.

The resolution as adopted by council notes that several of the crossings provide the only means of access between the town and homes for some residents. The town wants to provide these residents with as much advanced notice of future maintenance work conducted by Norfolk & Southern as possible.

Councilman John Connolly noted that he and other members heard comments and concerns raised by the people affected by the closings.

“I really feel that it’s good for council to be unified in its voice to request just some advanced notice so that we can provide … emergency services to the residents north of the railway whenever a closure is planned,” Connolly said.

Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe asked Town Manager Steve Burke to see if Warren County officials and the Board of Supervisors could take a similar approach.

Also at the meeting, council:
• Voted 4-2 against a motion by Councilwoman Bébhinn Egger to add to the agenda a motion to seek an opinion from the attorney general’s office as to whether or not council violated the town’s rules for supplying water to properties outside the corporate limits by approving a memorandum of understanding with Warren County related to the U.S. 340-522 Corridor. Egger and Councilman Bret Hrbek voted for the change to the agenda. Connolly, Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe and Councilmen Eugene Tewalt and Daryl Funk voted against Egger’s motion.
• Approved a five-year contract with Comcast to allow the company to use the town’s utility poles. The contract will expire May 13, 2018. The previous agreement expired June 22, 2013, at the end of its original, 10-year term. Since then, town officials have tried to work with Comcast to reach a new contract.
• Approved a budget amendment for $93,000 to build a prefabricated structure for vehicle storage for the Department of Energy Services at 1100 Manassas Ave. The action included the award of a contract to Pioneer Pole Buildings to construct the building not to exceed $193,846. The fiscal 2016 budget includes $100,846 for the project.
• Approved a request by the Power of Partnership Alliance to release $3,800 to help the town with promoting tourism. Council approved the funding request in 2013 but had not yet given the money to the organization.
• Authorized a notice to proceed with Mortex Consulting for the donation of an electric vehicle DC fast charger that the town would install near the Visitors Center, 414 E. Main St.
• Adopted a resolution authorizing the town manager to send a letter to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries request that Front Royal be allowed to participate in the Urban Archery Program in 2016. The resolution also calls for town staff to develop the local regulations necessary to permit archery for the purposes of the program with certain restrictions allowed by the state department.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com