Heavy haul block­ing road­way brings cit­i­zen con­cerns

Maryland Independent - - News - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @SykesIndyNews

With mul­ti­ple power plants go­ing up in Brandy­wine over the next year, get­ting the ma­te­ri­als nec­es­sary to com­plete the build­out can be stren­u­ous and will re­quire time, in­con­ve­nience and heavy lift­ing.

But Gail Fisher, an 88-year-old woman liv­ing on John­son­town Road right next to the Charles County Fair­grounds where the com­pany is op­er­at­ing, said Lock­wood Brothers Inc. is block­ing the en­trance and exit to 14 homes in the area.

The com­pany is us­ing the CSX rail­way to trans­port crates with ma­chin­ery for the power plant to Prince Ge­orge’s County and ul­ti­mately to their Brandy­wine des­ti­na­tion. By us­ing the rail­way, the com­pany is avoid­ing hav­ing to travel more than 30 miles up the road from the Aqua­land Ma­rina where ma­te­ri­als are be­ing shipped in.

But Fisher said, as an 88 year-old woman who has oc­ca­sional trips to the doc­tor’s of­fice, be­ing blocked in can be an in­con­ve­nience, even for a short amount of time, she said.

Fisher said she has talked to peo­ple with the com­pany about the move and they have given her the in­for­ma­tion she has asked for, but the only of­fi­cial no­tice she has re­ceived has come in the form of a let­ter left on her porch. And there “re­ally was no ex­pla­na­tion for block­ing the road,” she said.

“It no­ti­fied me that they had a con­tract with the fair­grounds where they would be clos­ing our road two or three days a week for 12 weeks for ‘hope­fully’ no more than 15 min­utes at a time,” Fisher said. “They told us they’d only be go­ing for 15 min­utes at a time, but they’ve got a sign up say­ing that they may be op­er­at­ing any­where from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. That’s a huge win­dow.”

There are doc­tors who live in the homes on John­son­town Road as well as a fire­man, Fisher said. Hav­ing them blocked in at any point can be dan­ger­ous. All it takes is one ac­ci­dent with a crane, she said, and any move can go from “15 min­utes to hours.”

And the county fair, which be­gins of­fi­cially on Sept. 15, is right around the cor­ner.

J.T. Hin­dle, pres­i­dent of the fair’s board of di­rec­tors, said the fair­grounds are fine and the Lock­wood Brothers are do­ing ev­ery­thing they are con­trac­tu­ally ob­li­gated to do.

Work will not pro­ceed dur­ing the fair, Hin­dle said, and is be­ing com­pleted in a timely fash­ion. “They’ve been a plea­sure to work with so far,” Hin­dle said. “We’re still on sched­ule for the fair.”

The move should be com­pleted some­time in Oc­to­ber, ac­cord­ing to Crys­tal Hunt, a pub­lic in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for Charles County Govern­ment.

Dur­ing the first loading op­er­a­tion on Aug. 30, Hunt said, the county’s in­spec­tor did note that John­son­town Road was blocked off for ap­prox­i­mately five min­utes, but did not im­pact res­i­dents, Hunt said.

The county did not grant the com­pany the right to block John­son­town Road, which is a pri­vately owned road, Hunt said. How­ever, she said, the sin­gle-track CSX rail­way that crosses the road is owned by the rail com­pany giv­ing them the right of way.

Still, Hunt said, Lock­wood does not have the au­thor­ity to block the road or use the road for ship­ping their ma­te­ri­als.

“On the con­trary, the county has tried to en­sure ad­di­tional pro­tec­tions for the res­i­dents and has made it clear that the road is pri­vate and not to be used by the con­trac­tors,” Hunt said.

Four more pieces of equip­ment were sched­uled to be loaded on Sept. 8 and the re­main­ing 14 pieces of equip­ment will be moved to the fair­grounds at a later date af­ter the fair.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said Lock­wood Bros. has been care­ful not to vi­o­late the terms of their agree­ment. If they do vi­o­late the terms, he said, “we can pull the plug im­me­di­ately.”

“I’ve heard that staff is quite sat­is­fied with the way the op­er­a­tion is mov­ing for­ward,” Robin­son said.

Robin­son said us­ing the rail­way is the best ap­par­ent so­lu­tion to mov­ing the ma­te­ri­als through the county. This way, road­ways are not blocked for a lengthy time pe­riod and ma­te­ri­als can be eas­ily shipped into Prince Ge­orge’s County.

Hunt said the con­trac­tors have to pro­vide 24-hour no­tice be­fore any ma­te­ri­als are moved and must no­tify the county’s emer­gency ser­vices de­part­ment as well just in case some­one needs to be trans­ported from the area. But Fisher said that is not enough.

“They say they’ve got a 911 mes­sage sys­tem and the com­pany will clear it up as soon as pos­si­ble, but that’s not very com­fort­ing if your house is on fire,” she said. “Or if I need to get to the hos­pi­tal.”

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