Sidney has experienced numerous problems over the years with the railway crossings that access 10th Avenue SE. Complaints have rolled in about the frequency of trains blocking the crossings and the amount of time each blockage lasts. BNSF Railway sent Maia LaSalle, public affairs and regional director out of Havre, to meet with representatives in Sidney who have a vested interest in the issue.
Sidney Public Works Director Jeff Hintz gathered representatives on Sept. 11 from City of Sidney, including Mayor Rick Norby, Sidney Volunteer Fire Department, Sidney Ambulance, Undersheriff Bob Burnison, Richland County Disaster Services, Red-E-Mix, Sidney Sugars, Nortana Grain, Transystems and Anchor Drilling.
The collective complaint was the length of time trains sit at the crossings and how frequently it occurs, many saying it was happening several times per week. Attendees said often times all three access points along 10th Avenue SE are blocked by the same train. The next access point to get across would be about 3 miles around. Hintz said the city has had workers on the other side of the tracks on overtime who sat for more than an hour waiting to get across.
“The long train issue is a tough one because it’s one of our initiatives, to become more efficient and run longer trains,” LaSalle said.
Emergency responders said they are concerned with safety and access in the case of a medical emergency. One ambulance driver said he has been stuck at the tracks with a patient en route before, but luckily the person wasn’t in a dire position, but that may not always be the case.
LaSalle said BNSF has allowed other emergency responders in different communities radios to call the railroad company in a case of a blocked train crossing. Burnison said in the last year, the sheriff’s office had seven calls from upset citizens on BNSF wait times. Emergency responders agreed BNSF radios may help in an emergency situation, but it doesn’t solve the issue of trucks and workers being stalled on 10th Avenue SE.
A request for further explanation of solutions from BNSF was not answered by press time. Hintz said the city has not heard back from BNSF since the meeting Sept. 11 meeting. Richland County Sheriff’s Office has also not heard anything further from BNSF.
Solutions, like the wait times at BNSF crossings, have been stalled so far.
Four years ago Jason Jacobson’s life took a drastic turn when a car accident left him in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. After seven subsequent surgeries, Jacobson’s battle is still uphill.
A benefit is planned for Saturday, Sept. 28, at 7 p.m., at Sidney Elks Lodge with a brisket and pulled pork dinner and a silent and live auction. The benefit will help the family raise money for vehicle that would allow Jacobson to drive himself while in his power chair. Such a vehicle would grant him independence, freedom and most of all less physical strain than chair restraints allow in the family’s current vehicle.
Tell us about the toll your surgeries have taken, physically, emotionally and financially.
The majority of my surgeries have been flap surgeries to fix pressure ulcers. I have chronic osteomyelitis, an infection of bone and bone marrow, so unfortunately this hinders my recovery time and also makes me more prone to ulcers getting out of control. Each flap surgery puts me out of commission for 6-8 weeks. I have to be on complete bed rest for at least 21 days then 2 weeks of slowly being able to sit up and then being able to get in my chair and IV antioviotics the entire time and usually longer. Each time I go into surgery I get physically weaker and have to work even harder to get my strength and balance back. My family and I try really hard to stay in a good place mentally while I’m gone. Mental health is extremely important when you are stuck in a bed, on your back, laying flat for weeks. Financially, we will be paying for these surgeries and hospital stays for many many years to come. Having to keep taking time for these surgeries also doesn’t allow me to grow my business as much as I want to. Thankfully I have amazing customers that are very understanding.
What has the continued community and family support meant to you since your accident?
The continued community support is amazing! Makes me proud to grow up in Sidney. Not all kids get a community like we had growing up. I have the most loving family. My entire family, along with the Bart family, have always tried to make sure I felt at home. And as always Candace and the boys are right by my side through thick and thin. I have the best wife and kids!
Can you tell us about how you became paralysed?
I was a passenger in a motor vehicle accident. I was thrown from the car while it was flipping and sustained a T6 complete spinal cord injury.
What do you want people to know about the benefit that isn’t listed on the poster?
My family and I try to raise awareness about SCI. The more knowledge we can spread about everything someone goes through or had to deal with while having and SCI the better people and businesses can be with adaptability. Wheelchair users just want to be included and comfortable when going out, just like anyone else.
Is there a dollar amount you hope to raise?
We are grateful that there is a benefit being held and any amount will truly help in the possibility of getting an accessible vehicle that I can drive. We will be thankful for any amount that is raised.
Do you know the average cost of your medical condition over the course of a year/month?
It depends, if I stay healthy and out of the hospital then the cost per month is a little manageable, a few hundred dollars. Each surgery and hospital stay puts my family out of thousands of dollars.
1 A Salad & Sandwich Luncheon will be hosted on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Peoples Congregational Church, 405 10th Avenue SW, 11 a.m. — 1 p.m. Free will offering, proceeds benefit the church endowment.
2 Ag in the Classroom will be Thursday, Sept. 26, Richland County Fairgrounds Event Center, 8:30 a.m. — 1:30 p.m. For second and third graders in Richland County. Kids will learn about how wheat gets from the field into a loaf of bread; where hamburger, cheese, and vegetables come from; how we get sugar out of beets and honey; and how to be safe around the farm and home.
3 On Saturday, Sept. 28, head over to Glendive for the BBQ in the Badlands & Brewfest, Dawson County Fairgrounds, Glendive, 1:30-7:30 p.m. Raptor Run/Walk 5k & silent auction, Dawson County Fairgrounds, 9:30 a.m. — 6 p.m.
4 In Sidney on Saturday, Sept. 28, is the Little Eagles Fall Basketball, West Side Gym, an opportunity to learn skills that will help young athletes grow as a basketball player. Skills will include shooting, dribbling, passing, defense, rebounding and team play. Kindergarten through second grade is 9-9:30 a.m. Third and fourth grade are from 9:30-10 a.m.
5 Stockman’s Ball will be Saturday, Sept. 28, Richey Fire Hall, 6-9 p.m. Pitchfork fondue style steak supper, $20 per person. Proceeds to aid Richey Historical Museum.
Spencer VanWichen of Interstate Engineering, provided updates on current and upcoming construction projects within the Fairview community at the city council meeting Wednesday, Sept. 18.
All but one of the updates and changes throughout the meeting were unanimously approved. Western Avenue reconstruction was put on hold due to questions raised by members wanting clarification as to whom would be paying the total of $108,000.
Sewer main issues and repairs generated much of the discussion later in the meeting. Some of the pumps have begun to be overworked due to infiltration, sludge buildup and gaps between pipe joints.
“We were looking into maybe looking at doing a sewer manhole replacement at 6th and Western,” VanWichen said. “But I don’t think we’re going to go through with that right now. Just with the condition the mains are in right now, I don’t think it’d be worth putting that in that sort of pickle.”
Nevertheless, everyone seemed to understand that a town-wide cleaning was in order.
The next city council meeting will be Monday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m., at Fairview City Hall.
In other news
Employee and elected officials wages were set for the 2019-20 upcoming year: Mary Norgard, $22.95/hour; Daniel Murphy, $26.22/hour; Cal Saedeek, $31.23/hour; Joseph Moore, $24.21/hour; Tyrone Simpson, $23.74/hour. Council is cancelling the 2019 general election of municipal officers scheduled for Nov. 5 due to the number of candidates being equal to or less than the number of positions that need to be filled. Council agreed to purchase Johnson Subdivision Park for $500. A change order for the additional water main installation was approved in the amount of $280,000.