City leaders say CSX not doing enough to maintain its downtown property
A rusty, weed-choked fence surrounds a parking area on Depot Street that Corbin officials say typifies CSX's lack of property maintenance downtown.
Corbin city officials are turning up the heat on one of the towns largest businesses to clean up a portion of its property in a highly visible area of downtown.
In a tersely worded letter to CSX Transportation's Jacksonville, Fla. corporate headquarters in April, Frank Burke, who serves as the city's Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Officer, blasted the company for its lack of maintenance to property that lies along Depot Street.
Burke focused on an unused parking lot just north of the old depot building that he said has "deteriorating" walls and fencing and is often covered with trash and rubbish.
"The parking lot of full of mud holes, and the sidewalk is [in] very bad shape creating a safety hazard," Burke wrote.
Also contained within the letter were complaints about creek banks that Burke said CSX refuses to mow and even an accusation that the company contributed to flooding in 1999 that caused over $100,000 to the old city hall building. He said CSX had failed to clean out drains and drainage pipes that led to the flooding.
"Our citizens and elected officials are wondering why CSX does nothing to enhance their property locally when your other yards have large areas of nice landscaping contributed and maintained by CSX," Burke wrote in the letter. "Only lately have some of these eyesores been improved, but only because of local efforts. Maybe corporate needs to come down and look for themselves."
Copies of the letter were distributed to Corbin Mayor Willard McBurney and City Manager Bill Ed Cannon before it was sent.
McBurney said Monday he had not read the letter, but Cannon said he was aware of it and approved, noting the he felt the railway company was lax in property maintenance.
"They need to keep their property up," Cannon said. "They are a huge part of the aesthetic of downtown Corbin."
McBurney said he's been frustrated with what he, and other city commissioner see, as a lack of commitment on CSX's part to beautify the area.
"If they want to be good neighbors, it looks to me like they would know we have a drive on to improve the appearance of our town. That area has sure not improved our town. That don't look good down there."
Burke said he met last week with Ed Stanko, a subcontractor who works for CSX permanently as a wastewater treatment plant operator and an environmental technician, about the property in question. Stanko was given a copy of the letter by CSX's corporate office.
"They said they sent a rep out here but couldn't find the area we were talking, so they forwarded the letter and the pictures I sent them to Mr. Stanko," Burke said. "It was a good meeting, but things are still kind of open. I guess we will continue to talk until we get this straightened."
Stanko said Tuesday that he was not authorized by CSX to comment on the situation. A call to the company's media relations division was not returned by press time.
Most galling, perhaps, is the revelation that the city's Public Works Department has been mowing a portion of CSX owned property near Depot Street for at least the last 14 years. City crews were there just last week mowing.
Private property owners in Corbin are commonly issued citations and forced to pay fines for lack of property maintenance, including failure to mow their lawns. If the city is forced to mow a yard, the owner of the property is billed at least $100 for the service.
Burke said CSX has never been cited or fined for lack of property maintenance. He said the company was sent a mowing bill by the city "a few years back," but that it was never paid.
Cannon said the city is in a catch 22 when it comes to the area near Depot Street.
"We've been mowing it longer than I've been here," he said. "It's a main street in Corbin. A lot of people drive it every day. It would look terrible if it were just allowed to grow up. People would be complaining about it."
McBurney said he believes CSX has agreed to pay a private contractor to mow the area from now on. Stanko said Tuesday he did not know if the company planned to mow the area and that CSX is currently reviewing its property boundaries to determine ownership for certain.
"It's just something the city has done routinely for so many years that nobody really thought about questioning it," Burke said.
Nearly all of CSX's Corbin rail yard lies outside the city limits of Corbin. A small portion near Depot Street, including the main office building, is incorporated.
About five and a half years ago, the company first accepted, and then reneged on a proposal to be annexed entirely into the city. Officials with the company said they wanted to research the move more thoroughly and would contact city officials at a later date.
McBurney said Monday that CSX has never addressed the idea of annexation since.
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