THE OHIO RAIL DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION
REGULAR BI-MONTHLY COMMISSION MINUTES
September 11, 2003
CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL
Chairman James E. Betts called the meeting of the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) to order at 1:22 p.m. on September 11, 2003. Commission members present included: Chairman James Betts, Janet Weir Creighton, Jim Battin, representing ODOD Director Bruce Johnson, Tom McOwen, Daniel Roberts, Herk Wolfe, Larry Sowers and Matt Selhorst representing ODOT Director Gordon Proctor. Members absent included Solomon Jackson, Don Yerks, Senators Robert Hagan and Larry Mumper, Representatives Stephen Buehrer and Jeanine Perry. Chairman Betts took a few minutes to recognize the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001 followed by a moment of silence in remembrance of the tragedy.
APPROVAL OF THE MINUTES OF THE JULY COMMISSION MEETING
Chairman Betts asked for a motion to approve the minutes of the July 10, 2003 Commission meeting. Commissioner Sowers moved to approve the minutes and Commissioner McOwen seconded the motion. The minutes were approved as presented.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTORíS REPORT
Executive Director James Seney stated that his Executive Directorís report was faxed to the Commissioners earlier in the week and that he would address any questions regarding his report. Chairman Betts asked if Director Seney expected any problems regarding the State Controlling Board requests cited in his report. Director Seney indicated that things should go smoothly.
Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Dietrich presented the Finance report to the commission members. He indicated that two requests were submitted to Controlling Board for consideration at its September 22 meeting; the Strategic Public Partners contract and an increase in appropriation authority to ORDC for its revolving loan fund. Mr. Dietrich noted that there were slight revisions to these requests, which were resubmitted prior to the Commission meeting. He also indicated that Columbiana County Port Authorityís loan proposal would have to be approved contingent upon Controlling Board granting approval for the increased appropriation request. The report continued with a review of ORDCís account balances: GRF (grant) balance - $695,889, Fund 3B9 (federal) - $44,712. The Revolving Loan Fund will have a balance of $1,541,738 after project approvals are granted. Commissioner Creighton asked about the status of the proposed early retirement incentive plan. Mr. Dietrich indicated that the buy-out did not move forward.
WESTCO Upper Valley Pike Bridge - Resolution 03-16
Mr. Lou Jannazo presented an overview of the Upper Valley Pike Bridge project and distributed handouts showing the re-routing of the Upper Valley Pike Bridge and a new page 44 of the packet. The Upper Valley Pike railroad bridge is owned by West Central Ohio Port Authority (WESTCO). The clearance on the bridge is 12'8". The standard minimum clearance on any bridge is 14'6". Since 1995, the bridge has been hit over 30 times by trucks. The bridge requires replacement because of its age (100 years old) and the fact that multiple collisions have degraded its structural integrity. This project was previously recommended for future funding at the March Commission meeting. The proposal recommends that ORDC fund $400,000 of the $2.1 million project. Larry Himes, Secretary-Treasurer of WESTCO; James Mischler, P.E, EMHT Inc.; and Terry Wilson, General Manager of Rail America, Inc. were all present for questions. Commissioner McOwen attested that this bridge has been a problem. Chairman Betts asked for a motion to approve Resolution 03-16. Commissioner McOwen moved to approve the project and Commissioner Wolfe seconded. Roll call was taken. Resolution 03-16 passed with eight votes in the affirmative, two absent.
Panhandle Appraisal - Resolution 03-17
Mr. Jannazo stated this resolution would allow the Director to enter into agreements with companies for appraisal and appraisal review services. The Commission instructed the staff to begin necessary investigations for a possible sale of the Panhandle rail line. An appraisal of the line is part of that process. ORDC staff worked with ODOTís real estate and consultant services sections to develop a two-tier consultant selection process to select an appraiser and appraisal reviewer. Of this selection process the final candidates are: ME Companies as the appraisal firm and Continental Appraisal Company as the appraisal review firm. Christopher Howard, Director, and Kelvyn Moyer, Senior Real Estate Specialist representing ME Companies and John Garvin and his son, John Garvin, Jr. from Continental Appraisal Company were present for questions. Mr. Jannazo stated that negotiations needed to get underway soon to obtain the scope of work and final cost estimates. Chairman Betts asked how many appraisers were in the review process. Mr. Jannazo indicated that six or seven appraisers were reviewed. Chairman Betts asked for a motion to approve Resolution 03-17. Commissioner Creighton moved to approve the project and Commissioner Selhorst seconded. Roll call was taken. Resolution 03-17 passed with eight votes in the affirmative, two absent.
Columbiana County Port Authority - Resolution 03-18
Lou Jannazo presented the proposed loan of up to $2.1 million to the commission. The loan will be used to assist with rehabilitating the former Youngstown and Southern (Y&S) line. After many years of struggling over ownership and getting the line operational, there is now significant traffic potential for the line but the existing track cannot handle the additional rail traffic in its current condition. After inspection by ORDC, the railroad and private contractors, ORDC is confident that an expenditure of $1.9 million will bring the line up to Class II condition. The loan request includes $200,000 as a contingency for a letter of credit. The Columbiana County Port Authority was represented by Tracy Drake, Chief Executive Officer. Daniel Robbins, Vice President, Marketing, and Bud Gane, Superintendent, represented the Central Columbiana & Pennsylvania Railway. Chairman Betts stated there were at least three Commissioners that do not know the history of the Y&S and the controversy that surrounds it. Mr. Drake stated that in 2000, the ORDC joined with the Columbiana County Port Authority to help preserve the rail line. At that time, the Commission instructed the Port Authority not to return to the Rail Commission for additional financial assistance for a period of at least three years unless they had developed new business. Three years have passed and the Port does have new business. The line will generate 2000 new carloads beginning in 2004. Mr. Drake explained the Y&S went bankrupt in 1997 and a land developer wanted to scrap it. The Port Authority stepped in to save the line. Chairman Betts stated there was significant opposition to this line from local politicians and citizens groups concerned with safety and congestion problems. Mr. Drake credited the ORDC Safety Section which invested more than one million dollars into this line to address these concerns. Mr. Seney stated that the Commission has worked closely with local officials regarding the safety of the line. Chairman Betts asked for a motion to approve Resolution 03-18. Commissioner Sowers moved to approve the project and Commissioner Wolfe seconded the motion. Roll call was taken. Resolution 03-18 passed with eight votes in the affirmative, two absent.
Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act - Resolution 03-15
This resolution supports the Bush Administrationís proposed Passenger Rail Investment Reform Act of 2003. Mr. Seney indicated that the proposed legislation recognizes that proposed passenger rail system plans, such as the Cleveland Hub and Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, need to be under the planning and execution of US DOT and the statesí DOTs. Amtrak should not be a railroad but an operator and funding of these projects should be similar to highway and airport funding structures. Major issues include the disposition of pensions and the rights of Amtrak to operate on freight railroad corridors. Several commissioners were concerned with the language in the proposed legislation and stated they would need additional information in order to make an informed decision regarding the resolution.
Commissioner Wolfe praised the AASHTO report for providing great information on freight railroading. Chairman Betts moved that the ORDC go on record as opposing the continuation of the current national rail passenger system and look forward to the opportunity of working with the state planning organizations in the US DOT in the development of a new, more cost efficient and effective national rail passenger system. The motion failed to receive a second. Discussion was terminated without action.
Approved Project Briefings: Advanced Composites Rail Spur / HDR Engineering
Mr. Jannazo informed the commissioners that the Advanced Composites rail spur project has been withdrawn from consideration. Matt Dietrich reported that he had just received new information on the HDR Engineering contract so he was "not prepared to present the project at this time." The project will be brought before the Commission at the next meeting in November.
Approved Project Briefing - Strategic Public Partners
Mr. Dietrich indicated that this project is set to go before Controlling Board on Sept. 22, 2003. He said that there had been a slight modification to the project. Director Jim Seney worked with Strategic Public Partners in the previous fiscal year and the contract is a continuation of this project. Darrin Klinger, Strategic Public Partners, was present for questions.
Commissioner Roberts thanked Chairman Betts, Director Seney, Matt Dietrich and Lou Jannazo for their efforts in getting him up to speed on Commission issues following his recent appointment.
Tom Barnett, representing Ohi-Rail Railroad, said that in regards to Julyís Resolution 03-14, Paul Carpolitti advised ORDC that there are no significant Apex project updates; "itís a work in progress." The company is waiting for responses from the developers.
Jim Ong, representing the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, stated that in regards to President Bushís plan, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers concurs with Director Seney and CSX. They believe that Amtrak was set up to fail and indicated that an examination of the rail infrastructure in this country is needed. "Itís far too important to be left in the hands of the railroads which have suffered from an unbalanced transportation policy in this country for years," Mr. Ong stated.
Stu Nicholson, Ohio Association of Rail Passengers (OARP), stated that the OARP disagrees somewhat with Director Seney on the Bush plan, but does agrees that a new paradigm regarding rail transportation is necessary.
Bob Boyce, also of OARP, voiced his support of Amtrak and indicated that he believes itís a serious mistake to eliminate funding for Amtrak; stating that the new Amtrak administration shows promise for reform and, with adequate funding, would show some results. He also expressed concern that the Administrationís bill will promote privatization of the national service, citing the European systemsí failures at privatizing.
Chairman Betts added that the Commissioners want to thank Director Seney for doing a good job and showing leadership in developing ways to create change for railroading in Ohio.
Chairman Betts reported that the retreat for September 12 had been postponed. The new date is tentatively set for Monday, October 27th. Additional details regarding the retreat will follow.
Chairman Betts adjourned the meeting at 3:10 p.m.