As executives of the Canadian company intending to buy the controversial Youngstown & Southern Railroad familiarize themselves with the history of the system, they should ask to see a letter from Boardman Township trustees to Tracy Drake, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority, which owns the rail line. The letter makes a simple request: Please clean up the tracks so as to meet zoning codes.
If the officials of Calgary-based Tervita Corp.do get a hold of it, they would also find a two-line written response from Drake that said any named zoning violations are “pre-empted by federal law.”
Why? Because Y&S is under federal jurisdiction.
But Drake took the battle with Boardman a step further last year when he contended that any complaints about the blighted condition of the tracks should be directed to the railroad company that was operating the system at the time, Indiana Boxcar Corp., which had crews and engines on the rail line.
Boardman Trustee Thomas Costello, who has long complained about the deteriorated tracks and the debris along the route, put the issue in its proper perspective with this comment: “All I am asking is that if you are going to operate in the township, be a good neighbor. Part of that means cleaning up your property.”
Costello, who has described the property along the tracks as an “eyesore,” is correct in noting that all the box cars should be tarped to prevent debris from flying off. The president of Indiana Boxcar Corp. denied that the debris was flying off the cars and contended that the tops were covered with netting. The company hauled construction and demolition material to a landfill in Negley.
President Powell Felix said the railroad did not create the type of trash township residents and officials have complained about.
“I’m not saying something could never come off,” Felix said. “ ... if it did we’d be glad to come take care of it, but the cars have not had any significant history on leaving a debris field.”
Not exactly the neighborly response Boardman Township officials were expecting.
Which brings us to Tervita, the Canadian company that is paying $2.9 million to the Columbiana County Port Authority for the Y&S Railroad. Tervita provides environmental and energy services to various industries, including the shale industry, according to the Associated Press.
The purchase will be finalized by July 16 when the letter of intent is executed with a $150,000 payment. According to Drake, $1.2 million of the $2.9 million will be used to pay off an Ohio Rail Development Commission loan, while $500,000 will pay off a bank loan.
The commission has agreed to forgive $1 million in penalties owed by the port authority for falling behind on payments to the agency after a potential buyer, Eastern States, failed to follow through with its purchase.
Tervita also will buy the Negley landfill or a major interest in the facility.
So, with its presence in the Mahoning Valley — the 36-mile rail line runs from Boardman to Darlington, Pa. — will the Canadian company respect the wishes of the Boardman trustees and the residents of the township with regard to the upkeep of the tracks and the cleanliness of the property?
We would hope so, given that the line runs through the heart of one of the busiest commercial centers in the Mahoning Valley.