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City backtracks on railroad closing

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 7, 2001
The Meridian City Council has temporarily rescinded an order authorizing the closing of a railroad crossing at Arundel Road, after hearing from people opposed to the measure.
David Linder, an attorney representing Dudley Maples, owner of Maples Gas Co., spoke to council members at Tuesday's meeting. Linder said he believes city officials violated state law in the way they announced the closing.
The crossing was originally scheduled to be closed March 5, part of an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railroad to close the Arundel Road crossing and a 17th Avenue crossing.
Linder said the city must give citizens legal notice and should hold public hearings.
Maples, other business owners and residents who live around Arundel Road say closing the crossing would inconvenience them and adversely affect their businesses. Several business owners and residents attended Tuesday's council meeting to show their displeasure.
Linder told council members that according to state law, only the Mississippi Department of Transportation can close a railroad crossing.
City Attorney Benny Carter told council members Linder is correct that one state statute names MDOT as the only organization that can close a crossing but another state law gives the authority to municipalities.
Meridian's chief administrative officer, Ken Storms, said the decision to close the Arundel Road crossing was difficult because he knew it would have negative consequences for some residents.
Storms said if the Arundel Road crossing is shut down, the railroads will have more room in the city's rail yard and will not have to block 49th Avenue as much as they do now. In exchange for closing the Arundel crossing, railroad officials offered to smooth the 49th Avenue rail crossing.
Carter and Linder are going to meet to see if the city and the residents can come to some resolution on whether the crossing should be closed. The council's vote to rescind the closing means that, until some solution is found to the problem, the crossing will remain open.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.
In other matters:
Ken Storms, chief administrative officer, told city council members Tuesday that revenues are falling short of expectations and cost-saving measures will be enacted. Storms said current projections show revenue to be about $280,000 short in the city's general fund. In order to combat the shortfalls, Storms said city leaders are considering not filling some positions as employees resign or retire.

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