By Bob Balgemann


BELVIDERE – The Boone County Board and community it serves are on record as opposing the plan to put a railroad track through the Capron and Garden Prairie areas.

As a result of the retreat held May 12, the board voted 10-1 May 18 to send a 2 1/3-page letter to that effect to the Surface Transportation Board (STB) in Washington, D.C. That federal agency will decide the fate of the 278-mile-long route beginning in Milton, Wis., and ending in LaPorte, Ind.

Deadline for submitting comments relating to recent scoping meetings, which the STB held along the route, is June 15.

The second sentence in the opening paragraph of the letter, on county stationery, was amended and now reads:

“The Boone County Board and our community are opposed to the proposed route due to its impact on our citizens and the environment.”

It previously stated: “The Boone County community is opposed to the proposed route due to its impact on our citizens and the environment.”

Board member Cathy Ward wanted it specified that the board joined the community in opposition to the route.

Discussion led by board member Sherry Branson concerned whether a resolution or letter should be sent to the STB. Branson wanted a resolution.

However, Board Chairman Bob Walberg pointed out that an opinion, such as a resolution, would not be part of the consideration for a decision.

“That has been stated at least three times,” he said.

However, Branson countered that she thought the letter in question was “very soft and didn’t specify the county was against it.”

Chairman Walberg said he thought the letter was “well done,” with board member Karl Johnson saying it reflected what was said at all of the county committee meetings. Those meetings were held the first two weeks in May, with the seven standing committees focusing on the areas whose issues they were created to discuss, and when appropriate to issue recommendations to the full board.

Beyond the introductory paragraph, the letter was divided into five parts, which had been part of each scoping meeting. The sections, each with observations, were: land use, transportation systems, safety, biological, water, geological and soils, noise and vibration, and socioeconomics.

The conclusion, in part, encourages the STB to fully investigate the proposed route and all alternate ideas that would exclude the Boone County location.

Board member Sherry Giesecke said the frustration she was feeling from around the room was “pretty great.” She wondered if the board was over thinking the issue and likened it to using boxing gloves to remove fly excrement out of pepper.

She stood alone in voting against the letter, which passed, 10-1.

Branson persisted in wanting a resolution sent to the STB and asked that it be a discussion item on the June agenda of the administrative and legislative committee.

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