Thursday, August 10, 2000

Lebanon OKs agreement to repair railroad tracks




By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — The effort to repair city-owned railroad tracks to allow a tourist train to return to town is inching forward.

        City Council on Tuesday approved an agreement for the city, rather than Ohio, to manage repairs to the 4 miles of track. The work should be completed by September, City Manager James Patrick said, allowing Turtle Creek Valley Railway to bring its tourist trips back to Lebanon.

        The company, currently running out of Mason on weekends, is frustrated with the slow progress on repairs, General Manager Guy Marino said. He initially was told the tracks would be fixed by July.

        “Financially, we're dying,” he said. “It sounds like (council members) have to vote on who goes to the bathroom and when.”

        Mr. Patrick said the repairs can't start until an environmental evaluation is completed. A grant from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments is paying $236,000 of the cost, with the city picking up $59,000.

        Before the tracks were declared unsafe for passenger traffic this spring, the Turtle Creek Valley Railway attracted about 30,000 visitors a year to Lebanon.

        Mr. Marino said he hopes to run Santa trains on weekends in Lebanon from just after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve, if the tracks are repaired in time. He also is moving ahead with planning for the 2001 season, expanding the railway's Wild West theme and setting dates for murder mystery trips and a wine trip.

        Also Tuesday, council:

        • Considered permitting free parking at meters on Saturdays. That will likely be voted on at the next meeting, Aug. 22.

        • Considered changing monthly Internet access fees to $33.95, or $28.95 with deluxe cable. The fees had been $34.95, or $29.95 with basic cable. The legislation, which will come back for a final vote, also would set cable rates for hotels and advertising rates.

        • Voted 5-2 to hire an architect for a possible addition to the city's cable building. Council members Amy Brewer and James Reinhard dissented.

        • Voted 5-2 not to de-annex 52 acres off Ohio 123 northwest of Lebanon. Turtlecreek Township trustees had made the request so they could buy the land for a new township building, but there were concerns that that wouldn't be the most attractive use of land at a gateway to the city. Mr. Reinhard and Mrs. Brewer supported the measure.

        Turtlecreek Trustee Dan George said he didn't know what the township would do now.

        “This is a perfect location for us,” Mr. George said. “We have looked everywhere in the county.”

        Lebanon City Schools also lose out; the trustees had offered to give the district part of the land for a school.

       



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