Board delays Speed Street crossing vote

Published 9:48 am Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Speed Street crossing’s fate has been put off at least one more day.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Tuesday delayed its vote on an ordinance closing the railroad crossing at Pearl Street until its Thursday meeting at the request of the Rev. Joe Mosley, pastor of Calvary M.B. Church, a small church at the dead end of Klein Street, to let church members give their concerns about closing the crossing. Mosley said church members wanted more time to discuss the crossing with the board.

A group of church members opposed closing the crossing to create a quiet zone in the area of Speed, Pearl and Klein streets at an October 2013 hearing on the crossing, and have opposed the emergency access road from Klein to Depot Street.

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Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield told Mosley they would meet with him and church members before Thursday. Flaggs asked Mosley to arrange a meeting at the church before Thursday to discuss the crossing. Mayfield wanted to meet personally with Mosley to discuss the reason for closing it.

“We’re disappointed that we have gotten to this point where our officials have taken such adverse action in spite of our strong objections against this,” Mosley said. “Our church has been in the same spot for 100 years, the railroad has been there as long as the bed-and-breakfasts on the east side of Pearl Street. The horns have blown at the crossing on Pearl Street as long as anyone can remember.”

He said the bed-and-breakfast owners were aware the trains blew their horns at the crossing, “yet after they bought them, they sought to impose their will on the community and demand that the crossing be closed.

“We have on record our reasons for not wanting it closed,” he said, adding church members never agreed to the compromise of building an access road from Klein to Depot and claimed Flaggs did not meet with the congregation. He called the access road “a waste of city funds.”

“We urge you to not pass the ordinance, or at least postpone, until we can have a more meaningful conversation so we can reach a more mutual for everyone involved,” he said.

Flaggs said he had done “everything in my God-given power” to reach a compromise. He said he had tried unsuccessfully to meet with a church elder and church members about the closing.

The closing issue, he said, “will be over (resolved) Thursday.”

Residents and bed-and-breakfast owners in the Speed, Pearl and Klein Street area complained of late night noise problems caused by passing trains sounding the horns as they approached the crossing, which was marked by signs, but members of Calvary opposed closing the crossing because it hindered access to the church.

If the Speed Street crossing were closed, one church member said, traffic would be redirected to the north end of Pearl Street, where it goes into a slight curve, narrows the street and could cause congestion.

Police Chief Walter Armstrong and Fire Chief Charles Atkins said they had seen instances where city emergency vehicles have had trouble negotiating the crossing. Atkins said the city’s large fire trucks have problems clearing the crossing and negotiating a curve just past the crossing.

City Attorney Nancy Thomas said Tuesday concern over a rail accident blocking the crossing was the reason the access road was discussed.

The board took the crossing under advisement after the hearing, and in September 2014 signed a right of way agreement with KCS, clearing the way for city public works crews to build a roadbed along the east side of the switchyard from Klein Street west to Depot Street, and the board advertised for bids to pave the project and install a fence to separate the road from the KCS yard.

The emergency road was part of a compromise between the city and the railroad and will serve as an emergency outlet for people on the west side of Pearl Street across the tracks, allowing the city to close the Speed Street crossing north of the street’s intersection with Pearl Street and create the quiet zone.

The board in July approved a $96,625 bid and contract for paving and fencing the Klein Street extension to Riverside Construction of Vicksburg at the Board of Mayor and Alderman Friday.

KCS requested the fence as part of the agreement to let the city use a portion of the yard’s eastern edge.

Under the contract, Riverside paved the emergency road, which runs along the east side of the Kansas City Southern switchyard from Klein Street to Depot Street, and installed the fence.

Work on the emergency road has been completed.

In another matter, the board approved a resolution adopting the downtown taxing district, which will allow the city to assess a special 5.05 mill property tax on commercial property in the city’s downtown area to fund Vicksburg Main Street.

The taxing district includes much of downtown starting east on First East Street cutting south on Cherry Street moving east one block on China Street and continuing south on Adams Street incorporating Carr Central School and picking back up on Monroe Street.

It heads north on Monroe and turns west down Bridge Street and continues east on Depot Street before it turns back north on Pearl Street and stops at the end of the street.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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