Grand Rapids tired of being railroaded by ‘Bluebird’

GRAND RAPIDS – Council has reached the end of its patience with the organization which runs the Bluebird
railroad, the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway.
After acknowledging the village has asked the volunteer group to remove rusting train cars and other
unused equipment and debris from its property for many years, council approved going to the next step
legally during its meeting on Monday.
Councilman John Berry reported the issue was discussed during a June 24 meeting-of-the-whole. "Their
organization received letters about it that were ignored," he said. The organization’s president,
Bill Linebaugh, told council at the meeting they were governed by the Public Utilities Commission and
the feds.
"We’ve been discussing those cars, weeds and grass," said Village Administrator Chad Hoffman.
"They basically told the committee-of-the-whole they won’t do anything with it."
He added, "They basically told us they’re not going to do it. We have sent them letters for nine
years to clean it up."
"At the meeting we told them we’re not trying to keep them out of town, only clean up the
town," clarified Mayor Judy Keifer. She noted the group did patch the Front Street crossing.
The group is being allowed to close Wapakoneta Road for four days, from July 17 through the 21st, or
depending on the weather, July 24 through the 28th. The goal is to make improvements to the Wapakoneta
Road railroad crossing.
After Councilman Curt Williams asked what council’s options were about the problem, Hoffman said the
village would have to file with the court and a judge would tell the group to clean up the property. If
it failed to do so, the village would then clean it up and the cost be put on the group’s property
Council approved starting the "next step" in the process to have the railroad clean up its
property by contacting its prosecutor, Albert Potter. It may be pursued under the village’s nuisance
ordinance, the same one used to require residents to remove junk vehicles from their properties.
During a report of the buildings, parks, properties and maintenance committee, Councilwoman Linda Hall
said the middle school property was discussed as the site of a possible memorial park. The school’s old
bell can be located and placed at the park, along with a plaque, the Grand Rapids emblem and plantings.

Hall also reported people are pleased with the completion of Phase One of the Blue Bell project. Two
similar renderings for Phase Two were presented, one from the historical society and one from Hoffman.
Phase Two will include lighting, walkways, plantings, signage and other issues.
Keifer informed council the chamber of commerce had followed the correct procedure and received
permission to use Howard Park in order to serve food to the GOBA bicyclists who came to town on June 24.
At its June 22 meeting no one on council could remember that chamber had gotten a request approved, so
"reluctant" emergency permission was granted with some grumblings.
Council approved the 2010 estimated revenue. It was noted income tax and local government funds are the
two largest decreases, but the total revenue and balance will be about the same as 2009 because of
carry-over funds.
Williams encouraged people to make phone calls and write letters if they are concerned about losing the
village’s library. Guest Rita Foos asked what happens if the library has to close, and Hoffman said it
will belong to the village.
Keifer announced her concern the Otsego Board of Education may seek to fund a central elementary school
by circumventing the taxpayers. She urged people to let the board know their opinions. "They may
get a new school but taxpayers won’t give them any money to operate it," she stated. "Keep the
library and keep the (current) school."