August 05, 2007

M and E Railway Taking UC for a Ride Back to the Future

The operating agreement between the Morristown and Erie Freight line and Union County Freeholders, signed in May, 2002, requires Morristown and Erie Railway to provide, in writing, and in sufficient detail, at least nine areas of a business operating plan, including, safety, security and emergency planning, maintenance, capital spending, landscape, marketing plan, etc. (page 4, Para 4 of the contract).
I recently requested documents from Union County that would explain what has been done in the years since they made this agreement regarding Morristown and Erie Railway's responsibilities. The only records my OPRA request provided were created by M and E prior to November, 2001. County taxpayers have a right to know about these critical areas the county has entrusted to this privately owned company that our public funds are subsidizing.
I was quite disturbed to find out through these Open Public Records, a number of alarming facts that the Freeholders knew before the signing of the contract. Among them are, according to M and E's Business Plan, Executive Summary: "The Staten Island/ Rahway Valley RR will be incorporated as the Union County Central Railroad, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Morristown and Erie Railway, Inc. with Wesley R. Weis as president, and Gordon Fuller as CEO."
Weis' association with MMBI and MIKAB Corporation gave me reason to be annoyed with our Freeholders. Check the company website ( Their clients are Verizon, T Mobile, ATT Wireless, Nextel, etc.
At a Freeholder meeting several years ago, I told the Freeholders that the county could make more money for the people of UC, with less grief, by leasing the RR Right of Way to a communications company that would run fiber optic lines along the line. The Freeholders were visibly annoyed. Now I know why. Well, for 17 cents a month, Morristown and Erie Railway will be the one making the money. Further in the document Morristown and Erie Railway states that it will be subleasing "easements for communications and utility companies."
I am annoyed by many things in this 11-page document. Statements about "The Marketing Plan will have to be both flexible and nimble in order to EXPLOIT new and changing OPPORTUNITIES in a post 9-11-01 environment." make me know who the county went to bed with on this one.
CEO Fuller constantly talks about these "plastic pellets" they'll be hauling. Under "Plastics/Polypropylene" the document reads, "The construction of a $350 million polypropylene plant at the Tosco Refinery in Linden provides a major opportunity for industrial development." It's also a major opportunity for disaster that will be railroaded through our communities.
Local emergency service personnel will be happy to hear about Morristown and Erie Railway's detailed safety and security plan. "Local police departments and fire departments will be familiarized with our operations and will be provided with our 24-hour telephone number for emergencies." How consoling!