PIQUA — By a vote of 3-2, Piqua City Commission approved a right of entry indemnity agreement with CSX Transportation, Inc. for the painting of the CSX railroad bridge over U.S. Route 36/Ash Street during their meeting Tuesday evening. Commissioners John Martin and Bill Vogt voted against the agreement.
The cost of this agreement is not to exceed $54,600, which includes the cost of having a CSX inspector on site the entire time the bridge is being painted. This cost might go down and the city might receive a refund of some of this contract, but they are required to pay this amount up front.
The agreement was previously tabled for further negotiations between legal counsel, which have since been resolved.
“I want to be CSX,” Martin said. “We’re going to pay them to paint their bridge.”
Both Martin and Vogt referenced code enforcement, such as a lawns in need of mowing or houses that need painting, where the city may complete the work, but bill the property owner or have the cost of the work put on their property taxes.
“We’re perpetuating a double standard,” Vogt said. “If my house needs painted, you’re not going to paint my house.”
City Attorney Stacy Wall addressed Vogt’s comment about the double standard by explaining that the city has tried numerous outlets to attempt to hold CSX accountable for their bridge. Both Wall and City Manager Gary Huff said that CSX is regulated by the federal goverment and does not have to abide by local or state code enforcement.
Huff also said that CSX has indicated to them that CSX is only concerned about the structural integrity of their bridges and not the appearance.
“That’s probably going to be the only way you’re going to get the bridge painted,” Huff said about the agreement with CSX.
Martin asked what was stopping the city from painting the bridge without the agreement. Wall and Huff advised that they would be entering federal private property and they would run into criminal issues of trespassing and property damage. Wall said that she was not comfortable discussing it, but she advised against those actions.
The commission as a whole agreed with the frustration of having to pay CSX to paint their bridge, but they disagreed about whether or not the project was worth it.
Mayor Kazy Hinds said that painting the bridge was needed for the city’s “self-esteem.”
“It’s catches your eye,” Hinds said about the bridge. “It’s the entryway to your city.”
Commissioner Judy Terry agreed that community members want the bridge to be painted, but expressed her own frustrations at CSX.
“I just feel so angry at that stupid railroad,” Terry said. “They’re not taking care of their own right-of-way.”
Commissioner Joe Wilson called the bridge an “eyesore” and referenced the cost as “ridiculous,” but also spoke in favor of painting the bridge.
“We’re trying to make an impression on people coming to the city,” Wilson said. “It’s not going to get any better.”
Martin reiterated his point, saying, “I hate that we’re paying CSX to paint their bridge.” The other commissioners agreed with him.
During the public comment on this issue, business owner John Irmscher spoke in favor of painting the bridge, saying that it sends a message that the city is investing in the improvement of the community.
Ruth Koon of Piqua also spoke in favor of painting the bridge. She explained that she was there as a representative of the Beautification Committee of Mainstreet Piqua and that the Beautification Committee unanimously approved of the painting of the bridge.
“It looks like we don’t care,” Koon said about the current state of the bridge. Koon encouraged the commission to paint what she referred to as a “terrible eyesore” for the sake of the community.
“We do need to look at the bigger picture and that is to improve our image,” Koon said.
In August, the commission approved by a vote of 3-2 the bid contract with APBN Inc. to paint the railroad bridge at a cost of $221,000, which includes a 10 percent contingency, pending the agreement with CSX. Martin and Vogt also voted against the amended resolution awarding the contract. APBN Inc. has continued to hold that bid price for the city.
APBN Inc. is currently awaiting approval on railroad insurance before beginning the project. Once that is secured, the project is expected to take place in April and will last two weeks. The bridge will be painted “Piqua blue” and will not feature any logos, according to Huff.
The commission also announced a proclamation to honor veterans and Cpl. Samuel F. Pearson, a 1998 Piqua High School graduate and Piqua athlete who gave his life while serving his country in Baghdad, Iraq, on Oct. 10, 2007. This proclamation precedes a “Green Out” event being held on Feb. 17, at the Piqua vs. Troy varsity basketball game and will establish Feb. 17, 2017, as “Green Out Day honoring our military veterans and Samuel F. Pearson Day.”
The commission also honored retiring police officer Kevin R. O’Reilly with a resolution of appreciation. O’Reilly worked for the Piqua Police Department for 25 years.
“It is always an honor to do this and to recognize the good service you have given to the community,” Hinds said to O’Reilly.
The commission also approved the following legislation during their meeting:
• A purchase order to Baker Vehicle Systems, Inc. for a large area rotary mower for Echo Hills Golf Course at a cost of $53,200
• A contract with Fishel Company for fiber installation for the city during the upcoming automated metering infrastructure project at a cost not to exceed $35,000
• Lease agreements with the Piqua Adult Softball League and Piqua Braves Youth Baseball for use of different parts of Mote Park
• Entering into a collective bargaining agreement with their clerical union employees, which provides them with the same 2 percent wage increase as other employees, along with health insurance
Reach Sam Wildow at [email protected] or (937) 451-3336