leader now favors second rail
track south of English Landing
At least one important mind was swayed
as the result of a citizen-driven meeting held Tuesday
night to discuss a second railroad line that could soon
grace the streets of downtown Parkville.
Property owners, residents, and local
merchants gathered to discuss the proposed addition of
Burlington Northern Santa Fes (BNSF) second train
track through downtown.
This meeting, held at the American Legion
building, was organized by residents Tom Hutsler, Dave
Williams, and Paul and Rhonda Doyle. City officials had
no part in this informational meeting, but instead residents
took it into their own hands to inform the public. The
meeting converted at least one city official, alderman
Jim Brooks, into switching his opinion on where a second
track should be located.
The city of Parkville has discussed multiple
options and has not made an official decision, although
time is quickly running out. BNSF and the city were able
to narrow down the proposals to three.
Option 1 is to place the second track
approximately 25 feet south of the existing track. Option
2 would mean both tracks will be relocated south of the
Farmers Market and English Landing Development area.
Hutsler gave over an hours presentation on Option
2 at the meeting, complete with an artists rendering
of the proposed project. Hutsler owns the English Landing
development, so he has a vested interest in the topic.
The safety and welfare of our residents
is our main concern, Hutsler said. When you
really look at it, Option 2 solves a lot of the problems.
It has the least impact on the park.
Option 3, which details both tracks would
be placed directly in the midst of English Landing Park.
This would disturb the trails, playground, and soccer
field areas. Hutsler also stated how he felt about Option
1 and the ramifications which would be sure to follow.
If they place the new track 25 feet
away from the existing track, eventually they will go
ahead and place a third track in the middle too,
Safety issues were discussed among the
crowd, such as the traffic tie-ups downtown when trains
pass through. Hutsler noted the average length of time
a train takes to pass through town is between three and
five minutes. With 80 trains passing each day, he calculated
that is over six hours of Main Street being tied up where
cars are at a standstill.
Two Ward 1 Aldermen, Jim Brooks and Deborah
Butcher, were present when Hutsler made accusations speculating
the city has been negotiating with BNSF behind closed
doors in violation with the Sunshine Law.
We must work together on this project,
the railroad, city, and the residents, Hutsler said.
This is not a behind closed doors issue for the
city to do alone. We asked them a year ago to keep this
project out in the open. If the city had been open about
this deal, everyone wouldnt be so confused about
whats going on.
Butcher immediately raised her hand for comment.
You need to realize that not everything
the city does can be open to the public, for many reasons,
Butcher said. It will compromise our negotiating
process if we hold everything out in the open. We held
open forums to educate everyone on the three options months
ago, but a limited number of people came to these sessions.
We have done our part to reach out to the community. I
feel like people didnt like the citys approach
to the issues, so now they want something new offered.
Hutsler stated there was nothing the city
could discuss behind closed doors which the residents
did not know about already. He accused the aldermen present
of encouraging the residents to get involved in the issue,
but giving them no chance to do this.
Theres a perception being
put forth right now that were negotiating behind
closed doors, Brooks said. I do encourage
the citizens involvement instead of blasting the
city. Its simply not the case that were meeting
On an earlier occasion, Parkvilles
City Administrator Joe Turner described the process in
which the city is negotiating with BNSF in private.
We have spoken in private with BNSF,
I was there with other staff members, Turner said.
The things we talked about most were the needs that
will have to take place when this second track is put
in, wherever it is placed. Trees will need to be removed
and power lines possibly rerouted, things like that. The
legal issues with our two lawyers are always done in private,
of course. When it comes time for the actual contract
negotiations, that has to be in a public meeting with
the mayor and aldermen there to vote.
Turner said no official deadline has been
set for a decision, although he has heard verbal agreements
from both parties that construction may start as early
as the summer of 2007. As for the Sunshine Law allegations,
he called that a sensitive issue.
Heres what it all comes down
to. Its not that we dont want the public to
know what were discussing, but we dont want
the other party to know what we want to negotiate,
Hutsler said during his presentation for
Option 2 that moving the tracks south will be hard to
do, but it can be done if a full time city employee can
work on researching possible grants available.
The city needs to find grants and
funding, because it is out there for us, Hutsler
said. We just need to find a senator or someone
in Washington who can help.
Hutsler has estimated the cost of Option
2 at $4 million. Butcher responded to the contrary, that
the city staff has been searching for possible grants
and have not found a suitable one.
Even Kit Bond told us there are
no funded grants out there, so its not an option,
said Butcher adamantly.
A chart and handouts of both pros and
cons for Option 2 were passed out, while residents discussed
how disappointed they were in the public educational forums
hosted by the city last September. Although the aldermen
explained how phone calls and fliers were sent to residents
about the meetings held several times throughout the day,
complaints arose from residents who said they were unaware
of the meetings.
I went to the citys open forum
and it was pure chaos, Parkville resident Dave Williams
said. There was no scheduled presentation, and everyone
from the city gave me different answers when I asked questions.
The citys meetings werent done correctly and
I learned nothing. In fact, it confused me more than I
was before I came. Altogether, the meeting was an abortion.
It would have been useful to have a railroad official
Butcher stated how the surveys conducted
at the citys open forum, through the mail, and at
city hall overwhelmingly agreed by 90 percent that Option
1 was the best answer. Hutsler then shared how his focus
group conducted their own surveys, 123 of them, which
were in favor of Option 2. One man in the crowd even stood
up to announce how he had participated in both the cities
and Hutslers survey, changing his original opinion
and eventually siding with Option 2.
Hutsler convinced at least one person
at the meeting who was not already a supporter of Option
2, and it was a city official.
This has been a great presentation
because Option 2 has never been depicted this clearly,
said Brooks. Ill come right out and say it,
youve converted me. I see now how the parkway and
tracks can work together. I think the cost estimates are
way low, but I see some merit in this.
After the meeting concluded, Butcher said
she felt differently from Brooks on the subject. The fact
that Hutsler gathered his own group to provide this open
forum, despite the city having done so already, was a
sore spot for Butcher.
I am personally offended there are
accusations that we are meeting behind closed doors,
Butcher said. Its a difficult situation for
us, but we must decide soon. The city has done extensive
research and spent multiple hours on this project. The
way a democracy should work is when the city presents
the correct information for the residents at their own
We have a great deal of reservations
about these options, and we held our forums already. We
have tried hard to work with Tom (Hutsler.) I feel like
he gave a lot of false percentages this evening about
Option 2. Tonight was his point of view, and the information
is what he has gleaned for himself.
Hutslers enthusiasm throughout the
Option 2 presentation was knowledgeable, but residents
from opposing sides still disagreed. Hutsler said this
decision will be made not only for the current residents,
but 50 years from now our ancestors will thank us
Another resident in the audience felt
the plan was well depicted, but still questioned its functionality.
I think your plan is brilliant Tom, but it might
not be do-able.