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Back in April I mentioned, during one of the South Metro News Roundups (#5), the legislation Lakeville tried to push through to ban the practice of parking “empty” rail cars in residential areas. Well fast forward until last night when I received the e-mail (below) from a Lakeville resident who is quite fed up with the inaction of local government and the refusal of Progressive Rail to be–well, progressive. This resident wanted to share her story and being that I just saw the open boxcars and thought to myself how they could be used by the homeless for shelter this winter, I felt it was pertinent to post it in its entirety with only a few changes made:
I am one of many who built along these tracks, fifteen years ago. I imagined we would have some train activity. After the tracks have not been used in all that time and no maintenance had been done, we assumed they would be used lightly or not at all. The tracks are in such disrepair, missing rail spikes, plates, rotted out rail ties, etc. So in came Progressive Rail with cars that they searched for all over the US to store here in Lakeville. We went from Ethanol Tankers that were deemed empty according to Progressive. When we met last year for a meeting at our local library the fire department had just purchased a special fire truck to put out ethanol fires due to the fact that if there ever was a fire with those tankers so close to homes the closest hazmat fire vehicle would be the airport at that point. I think the city of Lakeville picked up that tab. After our inquiry it was disclosed that empty tankers to Progressive Rail meant 20 to 30 gallons of residue give or take in each car, that is why the hazmat placards still had to be on the actual cars. So they told us half the story. We approached the city council and agreed with us and wanted the graffiti riddled cars put somewhere else. The resolution was done and sent to Rep. Kline and Klobuchar. Kline is from Lakeville so we thought this would help our cause. Keep in mind they are getting paid to store each and every car every day they are stored here.
They then moved in some rusty old coil cars, these by the way have come and gone to the scrap metal yard as they were that junky. The latest is the lovely green box cars that have moved in. We were given notice by our city that they would move these cars in this spring and promised us they would be locked and secured. No such promise was kept. The minute they arrived we were calling the city and Progressive to come close and lock those cars. They have never complied. The one string of cars along CR-50 towards Dodd on the Friedges (Landscaping) side has at least 17 open cars, there are many open cars behind Kenwood Middle School back in a wooded area that are frequented by unwanted visitors to our neighborhood. We are in constant contact with local police about young adults and illegal activity that is going on in those open train cars. We even have had a regular patrol in our neighborhood because of all the calls to police. We have been left to police this mess Progressive had created. We have children that use these cars as playgrounds etc. It is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. We watch our children but the trains are like magnets and you cannot be on top of them 24/7. Dave Fellon, Progressive’s owner suggests we are not very good parents and it is trespassing to be on or near the tracks.
The actual neighborhood I live in is a one entrance in and once entrance out, so every time Progressive decides to move their train, we are blocked in and I can count four occasions in the last year that this has occurred. Three times for over an hour, I keep a log now for train activity. People have been late to work, picking up kids, getting to appointments and buses have been delayed or stuck. We are a walking neighborhood now and kids cross that track on a regular basis to and from school as well. We have many elderly people with health concerns that are terrified of being trapped in by the trains.
We have many that are trying to sell homes because of job losses and the trains do not help with this either. They say it hurts our property value as a neighborhood, I am more concerned with safety of our children and families myself but others have many reasons. Progressive does have a legal right to park them there, they always give us the line the economy is to blame, the bottom line is they found another way to make money. They do not put any money into repairing those tracks that they are profiting on. Progressive does not accept any accountability or consequences for its actions such as storing ethanol in residential neighborhoods on tracks that are in disrepair, leaving open rail cars, and making our neighborhoods vulnerable to illegal activity. So we are left doing the dirty work, trying to keep our city safe. Just driving down CR-50 the trains are dirty and gang tagged, they will not even clean up that mess or require their “clients” to do so out of respect for our city and its residents. Many business owners on CR-50 are upset as well and call frequently to Progressive Rail. I also think they should be honest and up front with us as well. I think Progressive should be held more accountable for all of the above it is just not as simple as you bought property by a rail track, so live with it. A rail track yes, a rail yard with parked cars, we never imagined this would happen and we will continue to make noise until we are heard. I respect other opinions but feel we have a right to be heard too.
– Pam S., Lakeville Resident
What do you think of Progressive Rail’s refusal to be sane and do what is right up to and including sealing off open boxcars, paying the residents for their lost time due to closing off their neighborhoods while they fuck around with moving cars in and out, and paying for the additional hazmat protection that they city had to have because of the possibility of hazardous materials left inside the rail cars? Whatever you think about this story please go ahead and comment on as I’m sure that the residents of Lakeville who are affected by this unfortunate nonsense would love to hear what you have to say.