By Marianne Mueller – REPORTER

An estimated 500 people entered the doors of the Rockton Township on Monday evening, Oct. 3. Two separate meetings were held to accommodate everyone and those who remained outside until the first of the meetings was finished. Many held signs reading, “No eminent domain for investor gain, Block GLB Railroad, save our community investments.” These same signs line portions of Union Street running west of Rockton. In question is a proposed building of a railroad by Great Lakes Basin Transportation owned by Frank Patton. Resident Jeri Noller thanked the Rockton Township Board and Supervisor for allowing use of the building. “The purpose of this meeting is to bring us all together to make a large group in Winnebago County who oppose the railroad being passed through,” said Noller. “Ask the Township officials to write a resolution to go to the County Board, “said Noller. It is going to be a hard road to climb the hurdle of the Surface Transportation Board said Noller. The Board has closed any public hearings or comments. Representatives in Wisconsin have asked to extend. I urge you to write to your local representatives and ask for an extension. Everything goes by a docket number.” The Boone and Winnebago Farm Bureaus have expressed opposition. Noller directed that everyone talk to schools, hospitals, and anybody that is really involved; which would include anyone in a 30 mile radius of where an accident would be if a spill were to occur. “We have the largest aquifer west of Rockton. Nygren Wetlands, our livelihoods, and our well being have to be protected,”

Susan Sack has been a four year organizer and has collected 1,400 names of people from Wis. and Indiana. Sack asked how many have been on the ‘Block the GLB Railroad’ website before. Information is available to those living in the states of Indiana, Wis. and Ill. On this site and on a facebook page. “We are about rallying our resources and holding the Great Lakes Basin’s feet to the fire”, said Sack. “The GLB is made up of private investors with two railroads we said we oppose. The Winnebago line got moved to you as an alternative. They have failed to notify people who live along the route. Six railroads would be creating alternates and Chicago does not want to lose.” Sack reviewed safety concerns. “The Great Lakes Basin opened in 2001 and made Patton the head. This Company has not had to file with the Surface Transportation Board which allows them to throw something right out there. Who is financing this? Ninety percent of funding will come from Federal Railroad Grants. What if it is never used by anyone or if it is never finished?  Sack cited an example. “Say they had another 50 feet of sub-leasing. Quick eminent domain would allow sub-leasing of 50 feet off an easement taking property from the people.” A plat map of Winnebago County outlined people who would be impacted by the building of the railroad which covers portions of the Stateline including Roscoe, Rockton, Harlem and Rockford. “We are working together as a coalition and the coalition has hired an attorney, McFarland out of Chicago. The attorney’s want the Board to open up comments on the new revised route. “In Boone County the original route they wanted to put in would have been sticking in prime farmland,” said Julie Newhouse of the Farm Bureau. “They developed a whole new industrial system and went through the county. We worked on studying our environment. Frank Patton doesn’t lose sleep if the water is high. The Conservation District was contacted, along with endangered species, shallow wells and aquifers.  It is up to you to respond in an educated way. Let them know about your water and land.” “Safety is a big issue,” said Sack. 110 trains per day go at a maximum speed of 70 mph. That is 110 engines; one every 13 minutes. Train delays may affect kids riding buses, and we have to look at the possibility of spills, derailments or hazardous spills. Imagine a train derailing and what the impact might be. There are a lot of problems.” “The Surface Transportation Board is very pro-building of the railroad,” said Sack. Amtrak gets first reign; it is all politics.” We must be civil and bring concerns to our state and local officials at upcoming meetings, and to invite local news media.” “The Farm Bureau was not notified, “said Newhouse. “United we stand against eminent domain abuse.” This could take two to three years and we have to stay vigilant. The first hearing for the Farm Bureau was picking a route. The second, a set of environmental issues must be looked at and the third, does it serve an economic purpose?” The County Board has no say in it. They did not tell people. It is a shame if you do not get a chance to defend your property. “What is the attraction of Milton Wis.? The Milton Railroad track goes 20 mph. A question arose as to whether the trains would use oil. It was noted that the keystone got voted down and that so much land is in a rail port that could bring oil in on trains. Patton says it will not decrease your property values.” “This is electronically paid for by homeowners,” said Sack. “I encourage you to be educated. An application has never been filed on the proposed railroad and grants may be used to obtain the money.” The STB keeps extending the deadline. They have the fast track without any public hearings. An environmental impact statement must be filed.

All were encouraged to go to the website The next meeting on this subject will be held at Winnebago High School on Tuesday evening, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m.



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