Leaders vet rail authority move

With a rail line in place for the industrial park, Wapakoneta city leaders have been spurred to develop a local rail authority.

Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz and Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council Executive Director Greg Myers say they believe the establishment of a rail authority for Wapakoneta’s newest industrial park is inevitable and its existence should prove to be advantageous for the city.

“I think it will come to a point where we will have to do something because if you have multiple clients on the same spur it is much more appropriate to handle maintenance and car placement through a third-party entity,” Metz said regarding a rail authority to oversee the spur for the West Central Ohio Industrial Center. “This should eliminate all the problems and hassles that could arise and it would help maintain the individual industries’ requirements and maintain a flow of car as well as services they need.”

The mayor said he believes the rail authority would benefit the industries, the city and ultimately the local residents.

“The city benefits occurs in two ways through one particular issue,” Metz said. “One benefit to the city is we maintain the rail crossing and we can manage the spur for multiple businesses and continue to grow the industrial park. The downside is the rail authority would have to pay for the maintenance of line.

“I think, as a city, we need to lean forward, we need to be proactive, we need to be ahead of the curve, and we need to lead instead of follow so we can be on top of this issue,” he said.

Myers agreed with the mayor’s assessment.

“With what we are planning for the West Central Ohio Industrial Center and the way we hope it evolves — and unless it becomes a single end-user site — I think creating a rail authority is almost a given even if there are only two companies using rail because the rail line cannot belong to just one of them and not the other,” Myers said. “There has to be some way we handle a multiple end-user and enable them to have access to the rail spur so there will have to be some sort of quasi-government entity that will own the property and manage the use of it in some way, shape or form.”

Metz, Myers and Safety-Service Director Bill Rains have begun to research the requirements for establishing a local rail authority to own and to oversee the operation of the rail spur and line.

“We have talked preliminarily about as the JRS (Job Ready Sites) site develops and its likelihood to have multiple rail users that there needs to be some structure in place to be able to manage the rail spur that serves those companies,” Myers said. “The rail would not belong to CSX but to the city or the rail authority.”

While CSX would still assist with moving rail cars to the different companies, the rail authority would organize and manage how the cars would be moved to avoid conflicts, Myers explained.

He said he hopes a rail authority is needed because multiple businesses eventually locate along Progress Drive or throughout the West Central Ohio Industrial Center and can utilize rail service. He noted a fee is charged to the businesses because the rail authority is responsible for management and upkeep of the spur.

A long-term plan and master plan would be developed by the rail authority for the rail spur, he explained.

“We would want the rail to be an asset for all the industrial properties that would be developed there and not just a single one,” Myers said. “Establishing a rail authority allows you to have rail service open to all the parcels that could be developed without one company controlling the rail line or the spur.”

Myers, Metz and Rains have just started to investigate the steps necessary to create a rail authority in anticipation of when city leaders decide one is necessary.

Myers said the rail authority also could help industries with their plans for rail car storage.