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CPD, CFD concerned about railroad crossing closure

Posted: January 10, 2013 6:46 p.m.
Updated: January 11, 2013 5:00 a.m.

The Camden police and fire departments expressed concern about Monday’s upcoming four-day closure of two key railroad crossings in the city’s Dusty Bend community during a Camden City Council work session Tuesday afternoon. Interim City Manager Mel Pearson highlighted the closures and arranged for Camden Police Department (CPD) Chief Joe Floyd and Camden Fire Department (CFD) Chief John Bowers to speak to council.

According to Pearson, CSX Railroad will be making necessary repairs to the crossings -- located at Lyttleton and Broad streets -- Monday through Thursday. Both crossings are scheduled to be closed at 6 a.m. Monday and reopen after 6 p.m. Thursday.

“The history of this is that the railroad crossings at Dusty Bend are locations that we have received complaints regarding the deterioration of the wood around the rails,” Floyd explained. “We forwarded citizen complaints to CSX. Whether the closure is a direct result of the complaints I am not sure, but CSX has made the decision to do something about it.

“It will create some problems for our traveling folk, but with a clearly defined (alternative) route, the general public should not have a problem. The trucks will preferably stay on truck routes and use those larger roadways.”

City officials said S.C. Department of Transportation (SCDOT) contractors have begun to place signage for the project.

Bowers said the CFD will likely select Springdale Drive as an alternative response route, depending on the situation.

“This is a big deal for us, adding a minimum of six and a half minutes to our response time for those northern areas of town -- this essentially doubles our response time,” Bowers said during Tuesday’s work session.

Thursday morning, Bowers said he had been in touch with CSX construction officials and that they had worked out a plan to allow CFD vehicles to pass through the crossings in emergencies. He said CSX told him that the 2,000-foot-long section of track it is replacing reaches just to the apron of the Lyttleton Street crossing.

“The best-case scenario is that emergency vehicles would be able to use the eastern most lane on Lyttleton Street,” Bowers said, adding that the crossing would still be closed to regular traffic. “Another scenario is that they will have fill material on site. They could put that fill down and plywood for us to drive over. It’s not an ideal situation, but I appreciate their response.”

Floyd also mentioned the 2,000-foot-length of rail during Tuesday’s work session.

“It is a single piece of rail and they do not have any other construction processes but to put it down in one piece,” Floyd said of CSX.

Bowers told council that the CFD would like to make it clear to CSX that the closure is a concern.

Councilman Walter Long then suggested that “it would be appropriate members write a letter to CSX voicing these concerns regarding the closure.”

CSX Communications Director Carla Groleau said in an email that the company’s maintenance teams will removing and replacing the rail, asphalt, crossing boards and other rail equipment.

“CSX will make every effort not to impact Lyttleton Street; however, due to the nature of this work scope, and the close proximity of the two crossings, it may be necessary to close this crossing during this scheduled time,” Groleau said. “CSX appreciated your patience as we focus on improving the safety and efficiency of the crossings in the communities in which we operate.

The crossings at Broad and Lyttleton streets are not the only ones CSX is repairing in Kershaw County. Maps provided to the city and county by SCDOT show road repairs being made to crossings on Cassatt, Elliott Hunter and Sanders Creek roads in Cassatt; Lachicotte, Leslie Branham, Ward and Watts Hill roads in Lugoff; and Bowen and Church streets and Bookman and Ross roads in Elgin. It was unclear at press time when these repairs would be made.

Other work session business:

• Mayor Tony Scully asked city staff to look into reinstating the ability for citizen to comment on the city’s website or on Facebook. Scully noted the option of using a caveat to not allow personal attacks or obscene language as a safeguard for such a forum. Pearson said staff will look into the mayor’s request and provide recommendations as well as concerns for the use of online public comments in the next work session.

• Councilwoman Alfred Mae Drakeford highlighted Camden’s recent recognition for the completion of key health and wellness goals for Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties and requested increased city involvement to support the effort.

• Drakeford expressed concern, however, about the lack of representation for the city at the Central Midlands Council of Governments meetings and asked that staff or a council member be present at its next meeting. Mel Pearson stated that a member of staff is prepared to do so.

• Floyd provided recommendations for possible security improvements at the Camden Archives and Museum should the archives be selected as site for possible military weapons exhibit.

• Camden Economic Development Director Wade Luther outlined progress on the city’s hardscapes program. The program includes planned improvements at South Rutledge Street Parking Lot/Haigler Lane and Arthur Alley, Commerce Alley, and Gateway Corridor Enhancements. Wade noted that stakeholder meetings for the project will begin the week of Jan. 21.

• Pearson asked for adequate time for council to review proposals to transform the Camden Historic Landmarks Commission into a board of architectural review due to the length of staff presentations. Councilwoman Laurie Parks asked Pearson to recommend the best time. Pearson said council should focus on the issue at its next work session, Jan. 24, and reserve the opportunity to continue the discussion at a subsequent meeting.

• Council also discussed a temporary change in potable water treatment chemistry, a review of electric rate comparisons and Tuesday’s chicken by-products truck spill.

• Council went into executive session during the meeting to discuss a personnel matter, a pending legal matter concerning Water Plant repairs, as well as a pending legal matter concerning the litigation brought against the city by Herb Farber and the Camden Committee for Responsible Government (CCRG).

Afterward, Interim City Attorney Lawrence Flynn reported that the personnel matter has been dismissed, with the city pursuing settlement. Flynn also noted a legal matter concerning water plant repairs is still in an ongoing discovery phase. Finally, Flynn stated that during the executive session, council members were made aware of proposed settlement terms for the Farber/CCRG lawsuit.

(Editor Martin L. Cahn contributed to this story.)

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