How Frank Patton plans to Destroy Lives
in the Midwest
We grow up believing that if we work hard and do our best, if we are honorable and always try to do the right thing that we will live a happy life. Then something happens causing what we believe in and have worked hard for to come crashing down around us. We’re left wondering, what if anything do we have left? Can we pick up the pieces and rebuild? Of course we will have to try, but we are left a little jaded.
Right now there are farmers, business owners, and communities across three states facing this issue. Frank Patton, the driving force behind the Great Lakes Railroad is planning a project that could potentially change the lives of thousands if not millions of people by taking their lively hood from them. Patton’s idea is to build a 275 mile rail bypass around Chicago because the rail hub is very busy and can take up to 30 hours to move a train across the city.
He plans on doing this by claiming eminent domain and taking the land he needs for his project from the farmers, businesses, and communities in his way. Eminent domain requires fair consideration for the property being taken, but how does one compensate a family who has been farming the land for generations when you are taking both the past and future from them? What about the businesses and communities in the way? How do you calculate and compensate for that kind of loss? Here is a quote from a document posted on the Rock Against The Rail (RATR) Facebook page. It’s something everyone should read. The post went up on April 30. Go check it out http://www.boarddoc.com.
“GLB intends to offer fair prices for the property interests required to construct the railroad and to acquire as much property through negotiated transactions as possible. However, in some cases, GLB expects it will have tc;> resort to the exercise of eminent domain powers. GLB should be able to take advantage of “Quick Take” eminent domain procedures in each of its states to keep recalcitrant landowners from holding the entire project hostage. Under Quick Take, GLB would be allowed to take possession of property needed for the project by paying a court-determined amount, which would be held by the court as the actual value of the property taken is litigated. Appraisals are required in Indiana and Wisconsin, and as a practical matter they would need to be obtained in Illinois as well to support arguments as to what the preliminary and final valuation of taken property should be.”
It was my understanding that private citizens were not authorized to claim eminent domain. This is something that I thought only a government, whether federal or state, must do. Apparently private companies can just take what they want as long it’s for public use and they follow the rules. It is my hope that our elected officials consider this project carefully because there is so much at stake. Here in Rock County we have some of the richest farmland in the world. Once gone there is nothing that can be done to bring it back.
Here is Wisconsin’s eminent domain statute. This is from the Wisconsin Statute, Chapter 32 Sub-Chapter 1, and is also a part of the above document posted on the RATR Facebook page:
Under Wisconsin Statue 32.02(3), “[a]ny railroad corporation” (GLBRWI) may “acquire by condemnation any real estate and personal property appurtenant thereto or interest therein which they have power to acquire and hold … ” This expressly includes rights of way across other railroads (Wisconsin Statute 32.03(2)). Wisconsin Statue 32.05 governs condemnation for “transportation facilities,” which presumably includes freight railroads although this statute doesn’t mention them. After negotiations with the owner do not result in conveyance, the railroad must tender a “jurisdictional offer” of compensation supported by an appraisal. If the owner does not accept the offer within 20 days, and convey the property within 60 days, or commence court action to challenge the taking, the railroad may tender an award to the owner and take possession of the property. However, the owner has the right to challenge the valuation by appealing the award to either “a commission of county condemnation commissioners” or the circuit court.
Patton claims that his project will create jobs, but in the next breath says his train may take a million truckers off the road. What can those million people do to provide for their families? How can any state government support lost farmland and the revenue that goes with it? How can it support lost business revenue on that scale? Can public services hold up under that kind of pressure? When we are looking at potentially a million truckers being put out of work, farmers no longer having prime fields and pasture land to work as well as businesses closing, That is a lot of people turning to the state for help! Granted this is spread across three states, but we are still talking about a large amount of people looking for work and needing public support.
Patton stated early on in this venture that he had 8 Billion dollars in financial backing and rail lines that had committed to using the new development. It turns out that this may not be the case, as he was caught on camera at a recent scoping meeting saying that he may seek financial backing in the form of government loans. But wait… he said he had so much backing! Government loans mean US! He wants US to pay for a project that will put our family, friends, and neighbors out of work. He wants US to sit back and allow him and his project to take land away from farmers.
This is not acceptable, if the issue is the Chicago rail hub, then fix the hub! Don’t take away a family’s living. Don’t bring a farm that has existed for generations to an end. Don’t take a business that someone has worked to build and cause it close because the rail line has rerouted traffic from their town! In the coming weeks I will be traveling the county interviewing people in the way of this rail, and sharing their stories with you.
We as residents of this county must join together and do what we can to preserve our way of life. It was stated at a scoping meeting that the trains may potentially be a mile long and traveling at speeds up to 70 miles an hour. That is not something I want close to me or anyone else! Moving it to another county will only create devastation there instead of here and that is not an option. The only option is stopping Patton and his project. We must get involved, find out what you can do to help stop the rail.