(BEDFORD) - The Lawrence County Commissioners and Highway Superintendent Dave Holmes are upset with Richard Vonnegut of the Indiana Trails Fund.
Holmes says crews were ready to take a hump out of Coxton Road where the old railroad bed was and repave the roadway making it safer for motorists when Holmes received a call from Vonnegut.
"He ordered me to not do anything and then threatened to take us to court if we moved one shovel of dirt," Holmes says. "I don't know who he thinks he is... he was being... I just want to know what you want me to do?"
Commissioner Bill Spreen says he has phoned Vonnegut several times and Vonnegut will not return his calls. Spreen does have a meeting with him on December 6 at 11:30 a.m.
According to Spreen, when the railroad stopped using the tracks the area reverted back to the landowners. But now Indiana Trails Fund and Bedford city officials are building the Milwaukee Trail.
The first phase of the project begins at O Street and will conclude at Salt Creek Bridge and was completed on private money and should be completed by June 31.
Phase 2 stretches from Salt Creek Bridge to Williams Dam, and Phase 3 winds from Williams Dam through Indian Springs, to Cale in Martin County, before ending at the Crane gate. The hikers, runners and cyclists trail will also be funded through the Stellar grant.
Both Spreen and Commissioner Dave Flinn said Vonnegut's comments and demands were in "poor taste."
"I say push the hump over, pave the road and let them sue us," Flinn added.
Spreen added, "Threatening us when we are trying to make a safe situation for our citizens and the taxpayers of this community is not good. Many of the landowners from Bedford to Williams to Crane including me are not happy with having this trail in our back yards. They were to build fencing and they have not done that, they were to keep the railroad culverts cleaned out and they have not done that either and who is going to do all the upkeep on these trails?"
Holmes gave the commissioners a copy of Howard v. US No. 94S00-1106-CQ-333 which he says clears up who owns the property. He also believes the case gives the county legal right to repair the roadway.
A federal lawsuit was brought by 128 Indiana landowners whose lands were burdened by railroad easements. Together those easements composed a railroad corridor approximately twenty-one miles in length. Because the rail lines were no longer in use, the railroad, pursuant to federal law, sought authorization from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to abandon the easements. The STB authorized the railroad to negotiate transfer of the railroad corridor to the Indiana Trails Fund for use as a public trail ("interim trail use") in accordance with the National Trails System Act, which authorizes the STB to facilitate such transactions to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation ("railbanking"). The court of federal claims certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether railbanking and interim trail use pursuant to the Trails Act were permitted uses within the scope of the easements under Indiana law. The Court answered in the negative, holding that railbanking and interim trail use were not uses within the scope of the easements, and railbanking with interim trail use did not constitute a permissible shifting public use.
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