Maxton commissioners told they can’t put brakes on passing trains

By Bob Shiles

March 19, 2014

MAXTON — Maxton officials, hoping to slow down trains passing through their town, learned Tuesday that they have no legal authority to set the speed of trains.

“It is a common concern of local governments, but trains involved in interstate commerce cannot have their speed regulated by local governments,” Nick Sojka, the town’s attorney, told the Maxton Board of Commissioners during its regular monthly meeting Tuesday. “The Federal Railroad Administration sets their speeds.”

Maxton officials had hoped to adopt an ordinance limiting the speed of trains using the CSX main line that passes directly through their downtown. Train speed became an issue after a Maxton man was killed last month when his car was hit by a train passing through the railroad crossing at Malloy and West Central streets.

Sojka told town officials that he plans to discuss Maxton’s concerns about the speed of trains passing through their community today with CSX’s vice president of operations for North Carolina and South Carolina.

“I’ve been encouraged to have dialogue with CSX by Nelson High, a safety consultant with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Railroad Division,” Sojka said. “CSX tries to be a pretty good neighbor with communities having train speed concerns.”

Maxton officials are working to obtain federal funding to improve the safety of three intersections where roadways cross CSX train tracks. The intersections being considered for upgrading are on North First Street, North Third Street and Malloy Street.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the commissioners heard a presentation from John Hailey, a member of the town’s Tree Board who is overseeing Maxton’s Litter Cleanup Sweep on April 26.

Hailey said the cleanup, targeting trash along roadways, will be held from 9 a.m to 1 p.m and include all areas of the community.

“We want to keep Maxton a beautiful town,” he said. “This effort will be seen by many potential visitors, citizens or businesses that want to locate, or just visit our town … . This very important event will help us keep our reputation not only as a beautiful town, but our recognition as one of the most beautiful tree towns in the state.”

Hailey said that efforts are under way to get businesses, schools, churches and community organizations to participate. He said that bags will be supplied to participants at the downtown Freight Building at 9 a.m. Everyone should bring their own gloves, he said.

According to Hailey, businesses throughout the community are being asked to supply an item that can be raffled off to volunteers at the end of the cleanup.

In other business, the commissioners on Tuesday:

— Held the first of two public hearings needed to pursue an infrastructure grant through the Community Development Block Grant program. The town has not yet determined specifically what project for which they will seek some of the $25 million in federal funding currently available for infrastructure projects related to water and sewer. Projects that would qualify for funding include such things as upgrades to water treatment plants, improvements to sewer pumping stations, water main replacements, water lines and hydrants.

“Funding is competitive and awarded based on economic need and severity of a system’s problems,” said Mike Apke of McGill Associates of Pinehurst, a consulting firm hired by the town to oversee its application.

A second public hearing, required as part of the application process, will be held at 11 a.m Monday at the Maxton Town Hall.

— Accepted the high bid of $7,001 from Lonnie L. Hunt for the purchase of the old Police Department building on McCaskill Avenue. The bid was accepted under the condition that no higher bid is received within the next 10 days.