Village Of Swanton Joins Forces With Swanton Township Against Proposed Rail Yard

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The Swanton Village Council went into an executive session during their meeting on October 10 to discuss the sale of a quarter acre of land, most likely to Norfolk Southern Railroad, and emerged fifty minutes later with a surprising announcement. In front of an anxiously awaiting standing-room-only crowd of village and township residents, Councilman Mike Rochelle made a motion to withdraw Ordinance 2016-30A, The Sale of Real Estate (Parcel #72-22783) by the Village of Swanton. The motion was quickly seconded by Councilman Jeff Pilliod and passed by a unanimous vote to the applause and obvious approval of those in attendance.

“I’d also like to make a motion to authorize the Village Administrator to obtain additional legal counsel regarding real estate owned by the Village,” said Mr. Rochelle, making clear the Village’s opposition to the proposed rail car staging yard.

With those two motions, the Village of Swanton and Swanton Township became allies in the fight against Norfolk Southern Railroad and their plan to build a rail car staging area in the Township on the eastern edge of the Village.

Following the motions, the Council heard from several members of the community concerning the proposed rail yard project, beginning with an impassioned speech from Linda Cannaley, a long-time business and property owner in both the Village and the Township. Ms. Cannaley, who is also a realtor, contended that if the rail yard is built it will drive down real estate values, not only for property owners close to the yard but throughout the area as appraisers will use recent sales to determine current property values as property goes on the market.

“Who gets hurt the most?” asked Ms. Cannaley. “Those people who have to sell. The seniors, the moms and dads who lose their jobs.” She also explained that lower valuation of property would result in lower tax revenue for the Village and for Swanton schools. “Once here the railroad will stay for generations,” Ms. Cannaley continued. “They are not an asset to our village.”

The next speakers were Swanton Township Trustee Jeff Michael and his wife, Swanton Township Fiscal Officer Linda. Speaking together they implored the Council members to work with them to keep the rail yard project from going through, acknowledging, at the same time, that he current strained relationship between the Village and the Township may be a hindrance.

Responding to the Township’s request, the Council members were very open to the idea. “I agree. I think it would be nice to work together,” said Councilwoman Diane Westhoven. “I just think we have to get to a point where we trust one another and know that we’re working toward the same goal.”

Another important issue that was raised during the meeting was Councilwoman Tamara Haselman and the Safety Committee’s recommendation for the Swanton Police Department (SPD) to carry and be trained in the administering of the opiate overdose medication called Narcan. Narcan is a brand name of the drug naloxone which is used to counter the effects of opiate overdoses from illegal drugs such as heroin and fentanyl.

Ms. Haselman initially made a motion to make it so, however, after a strong objection by SPD Chief Adam Berg, Mr. Rochelle made a separate motion to create a Village policy regarding Narcan which will require further discussion.

In Swanton Fire Department (SFD) news the Council passed an emergency ordinance authorizing Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle to enter into an agreement with Fulton Township to provide fire protection for the Village. This contract agreement is retroactive to January 1, 2016 and will expire on December 31, 2016.

Also, a recent resignation from the SFD has created a vacancy and, on the recommendation of Chief Mike Wolever, the job was posted internally.

In other news, Mr. Rick Lederman, owner and CEO of Soaring Software Solutions of Swanton, has donated an Automated External Defibrillator for the Swanton Community Center. Ms. Hoelzle reports this will be a tremendous asset to the Community Center.

The next meeting will be on October 24 at 7:00 PM in the Village Council room.

Bill O’Connell may be reached at publisher@thevillagereporter.com

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