By Jo E. Prout
VOORHEESVILLE – A committee hoping for the creation of a quiet zone here last week critiqued the village board’s progress on reducing train-whistle noise, claiming that the board ordered a study for an unlikely solution and refused to pay for or discuss a second.
In November, the board received village engineer Barton & Loguidice’s report on the proposed cost of installing a four-gate system at each of the two crossings in the center of the village. Last week, the board reviewed the report, which stated that upgrading the crossings would cost $1,015,000, and could cost individuals $66 per year if the money were borrowed and added to tax bills.
Engineer Richard Straut said that the complexity of the two crossings and their local switching stations added to the costs “significantly,” over Federal Railroad Administration online calculations of $256,000.
CSX, which owns the railway, would use its own engineers and add to the cost, Straut said. To get a cost estimate, the board would need to pay $50,000 for a CSX engineer’s report, Straut said.
“We, as a committee, have never advocated for this approach,” said Steven Schreiber. About 10 members attended the board’s workshop to discuss the study.
Schreiber said the research that committee members had done showed that medians installed on the road at the crossings were less expensive, and that the committee had asked the board to order an engineering report for medians, rather than gates..
“The results of this study are not a surprise to anyone on the committee,” he said.
Schreiber asked with whom board members had discussed the proposed quiet zone, and Straut said that he had met with representatives from CSX, the FRA, the Albany County Department of Public Works, and Voorheesville Superintendent of Public Works William Smith.
The lack of names prompted Schreiber to describe “uncertainty and vagueness” as keeping village residents from their goal of a quiet zone.
“What exactly is the obstacle for us?” he asked.
Straut said that the circuitry involved and the presence of more than one rail at each crossing increased the cost for gates.
“We’re in the ballpark with these figures,” he said. “The DPW people say we may be a little low. The engineering detail hasn’t been done. There’s some uncertainty in this, it’s concept. We know it’s going to be this order of magnitude.”
“The bottom line is...the people of the village are going to decide whether they want this project or not,” said Trustee David Cardona, referring to a possible referendum. “We’re not going to come up with this money. We’re going to bond it. Do we really want to spend $50,000 to get [an estimate] from CSX?”
Residents asked Cardona and the board to speak louder, as a train horn blared over their remarks.
Schreiber said that the residents, who earlier had collected nearly 400 signatures in favor of a quiet zone, were not committed to using one method over another, nor were they asking for a particular amount of funding.
“We’re asking the board to work with us to resolve this problem. The question was, ‘What can we do in Voorheesville?’ ” Schreiber said. He said that the board had not responded to his e-mailed questions about why medians had not been included in the study.
Until a study about median installation gets done, he said, residents are not getting the “right response from the board.”
“Let’s cut to the chase,” said Mayor Robert Conway. “The county commissioner of DPW said ‘No.’ They don’t believe it’s a viable option.” Conway said that the state Department of Transportation agreed with the county.
“The county owns the road,” said Trustee Jack Stevens. “They don’t want it.”
“The county is public employees paid by taxpayers,” Schreiber said. “They are public servants. They have bosses, too.”
Schreiber said that the FRA does not require DOT approval for quiet zones.
“We can get you names,” Stevens said. “We’re not hiding anything.”
“I want some accountability. This is not the Soviet Union,” Schreiber said.
While some residents agreed that the committee would “not go away,” board members said that they would not spend $3,000 more for a local engineering study, or $50,000 for a CSX study.
“To spend $50,000 to get a number, that’s a hard pill to swallow,” Conway said.
Board member David Cardona said that the board had not said it would not order a study for the medians, but that the village wants to know why the county is against them before the village spends more money. The first study for the gate systems cost the village $3,000.
Committee members said that they want to attend another meeting with the county DPW and the state DOT, but Straut said that the group should choose a representative or two. With more members present, he said, “then it’s not a meeting, it’s something other than a meeting.”
Conway told The Enterprise that he would meet with the county DPW again after the holidays.
In recent business, the board:
— Agreed this week to pay the village engineer $1,200 to investigate drainage problems on Pleasant Street. The street was repaved last year, and drainage problems resulting from the paving were repaired. The repairs did not fix the issues, but created more of a problem, Conway said.
Further repairs could range from making a swale bigger on one side of the road to replacing old pipes along the road, he said;
— Briefly discussed its contract with the Voorheesville Ambulance Squad, which did not send a representative to the board’s Tuesday meeting.
“This is the second time we’ve requested their presence,” Stevens said. “Right now, we’re going to go into a new year without a contract with them.”
“We went month-to-month last year, too,” Conway said;
— Agreed to have Stevens find out how other municipalities restrict recreational vehicle parking.
Code Enforcement Officer Glenn Hebert told the board that state-registered vehicles can be legally parked in driveways.
Cardona said that the definition of a driveway becomes important.
“You park your car on it, it’s a driveway,” he said.
Hebert said that only 30 percent of a village lot can be taken up with structures, so that residents cannot pave yards and use them for massive parking areas.
Stevens said that large RVs parked along a home can become a “12-foot- to 14-foot-high wall of vehicle”;
— Discussed creating a code restricting use of portable basketball hoops along village streets, particularly during plowing season; and
— Acknowledged the shootings of school children in Connecticut.
“If we could have a moment of reflection for the victims of the national tragedy in Connecticut this week...” Conway said. “Thank you.”