Thursday, April 20, 2017

Intermodal Has Stern Discussion About Railroad Crossing/Road Money Allocated to Intermodals

For a number of months the Southeast Arkansas Intermodal Board has been talking about problems and difficulties getting the necessary approval to finish a road being constructed on the site of the intermodal park, that crossing the railroad.  There has been some confusion and frustration among the board members and some voiced concern aimed at the intermodal's consulting engineer.  The unhappiness seemed to boil over during the April 19th meeting of the board.  Several members of the board openly voiced their concern that the consulting engineer had not worked the issue out with Union Pacific Railroad.  According to a representative of the engineering firm who was present for the meeting, he indicated that the firm did not know there was any issue when they originally moved forward with the project working with two different short line railroads who at different times leased the line from UP.  The matter of conflict is the location of the road crossing and the distance to a switch.  A large amount of money has been expended on the road but the contractor has been unable to complete the work because no railroad approval has been granted.

State Representative Jeff Wardlaw, who sits on the board as a representative of Bradley County broached the subject of filing a lawsuite against the engineer.  It was stated that the intermodal has paid the firm over $700,000.00 in fees since the project begun.  Other members stated they desired to give the engineer a date to solve the matter.  The engineer indicated they were planning on speaking to UP officials to try to work out the problem or secure clarification.

In other business the financial report was approved.  It showed the authority owes Commercial Bank $279,147.19.  It listed amounts owed by the cities and counties for construction work to date as follows:
Drew County-$48,345.36
Bradley County-$162,206.74


The authorities bookkeeper, Bob Milton submitted a detailed spread sheet listing how much each of the local governments have paid over the years and the net worth of the intermodal park.  The amounts paid are as follows:
Drew County-$228,594.32
Bradley County-$114,732.81
If each entity pays an equal share, each one would spend $276,939.68.  The net worth of the intermodal park will be $6,335,722.82.  The cost to pay off the note, if shared equally, will be
$69,786.80 per city and county.

Rep. Wardlaw informed the board that legislation passed by the Arkansas General Assembly will provide will provide each eligible intermodal in Arkansas $75,000.00 per year beginning in 2018 for operating funds.  He said this would continue into the future.  The funding will depend upon the legislature continuing to budget the funds annually.  He told the board that he was told by highway personnel that the funds are supposed to be used only for operations but they would allow the southeast authority to pay on the current bank note, but not to borrow more money and expect the state funds to be used to pay for future loans. Apparently the money being made available for the intermodals around the state will be be funds that have been going to cities and counties for road and street work.  Rep Wardlaw said local governments would lose small amounts annually.

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