Train - 1

By Bob Balgemann


Boone County Board member Cathy Ward wanted a unanimous vote of approval for a resolution opposing the proposed route of a new rail line through eastern Boone County.

However, as discussion continued during the board’s June 15 meeting, it became clear there would be at least one no vote from among the 11 board members.

That would have come from Denny Ellingson, who said there were too many “wrong statements and misrepresentations” in the one and a half page resolution.

“I can’t vote for this,” he told the rest of the board.

Specifically, he took issue with the following comments:

In paragraph three, the resolution stated the rail line would “accommodate more than 110 trains per day and travel at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour …”

In paragraph 14, near the end of the 16-paragraph resolution, it was stated the “high volume, high speed proposed traffic will unavoidably result in train accidents and derailments, which potentially would release dangerous toxic substances in the air and on the land, resulting in contamination of nearby crops as well as the area’s rivers, streams and aquifers …”

“We need to clear up a few of these statements,” Ellingson said. “If nobody agrees with me, fine.”

Board member Karl Johnson suggested revising the statements, including the one in the third paragraph about the number of trains and speeds.

Ellingson agreed, saying it would take five trains an hour for 24 hours to reach the 110 figure mentioned in the resolution.

“What about several trains a day, traveling at up to 70 mph,” Johnson suggested.

That was fine with Ellingson.

Johnson also supported revising the wordings in paragraph 14, saying the conclusions drawn were not necessarily the case.

Ellingson agreed again.

After more discussion, it was the consensus that the resolution be rewritten and taken up again at a special board meeting on June 29.

Earlier June 15, the railroad issue brought in some side comments from among the board.

Board member Sherry Giesecke was giving an update on Growth Dimensions activities when Ward asked her if that organization had taken a position on the Great Lakes Basin Railroad’s proposal?

“I don’t know why they would,” Giesecke replied.

“I thought they were the economic driver of this county,” Ward said.

“Economic development,” Giesecke corrected.

Recently, County Board Chairman Bob Walberg attended a regional meeting in Rockford, during which another vote was taken on the railroad proposal. He was asked by Ward if he abstained on that vote.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Can you tell us why?” she continued.

“Because I have an economic interest in the rail,” he answered. “My attorney suggested that I abstain and I chose to do that.”

Ward wondered if he could have sent someone, such as board Vice Chairman Karl Johnson, in his place.

“Yes, I could have,” Walberg said.

After some additional discussion board member Kenny Freeman thanked Walberg for disclosing that part of the rail route would go through his farm.

“I think most people knew that,” the chairman responded.






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