Ultimatum works; railway pays city $34,000

Published on Monday, 6 November 2017 22:17
Written by LISA BACKUS


NEW BRITAIN - About a week after the city issued Pan Am Railways an ultimatum to pay for costs incurred after a train derailment or face legal action, Mayor Erin Stewart received a $38,000 check from the company.

“This is a win for the city,” Stewart said Monday. “It took quite some time, but I’m glad this matter is finally resolved.”

City Attorney Joseph Skelly had been negotiating for payment with the railway since late December 2016, a few weeks after a Pan Am freight train derailed along Columbus Boulevard, tipping over seven cars and spewing debris into the road.

Federal Railroad Administration officials announced in August that an investigation had revealed that improperly maintained tracks owned by Pan Am were the cause of the derailment.

Skelly and the railway came to an agreement later that month under which Pan Am would make two payments, in September and October, totaling $38,432.24 and that the rail company would take down a wall damaged during the derailment, according to city officials.

But as of Nov. 4 no payment had been made. Skelly was told on Oct. 27 that the company was backing off the agreement, saying it was part of “non-binding settlement discussions.”

That same day, Skelly told Pan Am attorney Robert Burns that the rail company had until Nov. 15 to pay up and take down the wall, city officials said.

“If Nov. 15 comes by and we don’t have the payment, we’ll have to take legal action. We’re coming on almost a year,” the mayor’s chief of staff, Jodi Latina, said last week.

The southbound train derailed on Dec. 6 as it was rounding a curve in front of Columbus Plaza, leaving seven cars on their side with some debris falling into the road. Two tank cars came to a stop across Chestnut Street, immediately tying up traffic.

The cleanup took three days, with police maintaining a presence in the area to prevent people from getting too close.

The police department spent $24,405 in overtime and regular time to deal with the cleanup and another $893 in other expenses, such as gas for the mobile command center, which was stationed at the derailment scene for days.

The Department of Public Works spent $7,605 and the fire department spent $3,000 on equipment and wages, city officials said.

New Britain Emergency Medical Services spent $1,770 and the Health Department spent $756 in wages for their time on the scene.

City officials also estimated that it would cost $40,000 to repair a brick wall at Columbus Plaza that was damaged during the derailment.

Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Monday, 6 November 2017 22:17. Updated: Monday, 6 November 2017 22:19.