GLENVILLE -- The town is moving closer to a confrontation with CP Rail over the town's demands that graffiti be removed from three local railroad bridges.
The Town Board has voted to hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, on plans for the town to remove the graffiti itself, and then bill the railroad for the cost of the work.
The hearing, at Town Hall, is a necessary step under the town's property maintenance law, which was amended by the Town Board in September to cover graffiti -- an amendment adopted with the railroad bridge situation specifically in mind.
"[CP Rail] received a notice of violation, and because they didn't respond to us, to go to the next level we have to take this step before we can go on their property," said Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle. "I am very hopeful that they just really do the right thing and rectify the situation themselves, but right now it seems like we're not going in the right direction."
Two railroad bridges over Glenridge Road as well as the bridge over Maple Avenue have all been marked by graffiti, and all three are covered by the town's cleanup demand, Koetzle said. The town would probably use an employee in a bucket truck to paint over the markings rather than go onto the bridge, he said.
Town officials argue that graffiti on bridges and in other public places is a "blighting influence" that "negatively impacts upon the entire community," according to the town law.
The problem with graffiti on the bridges is a recurring one. Koetzle said that in one incident a couple of years ago, town employees cleaned off graffiti, and a railroad employee subsequently came to Town Hall to threaten arrest for trespassing if the town went onto the property again.
Railroad officials take the position that no one other than authorized railroad personnel should be on their property, including railroad bridges. In an email exchange last summer, the railroad's bridge maintenance manager replied to Koetzle: "CP will not be painting over the graffiti on the bridge. I have copied in CP’s local law enforcement officer so that he is aware of the trespassing & vandalism that is taking place at the bridge, I suggest you pass this concern along to your local law enforcement as well. Hopefully their efforts will stop these actions from continuing!"
A CP Rail spokesman said in late August that the railroad would be concerned about the town seeking to enforce any graffiti cleanup law.
"CP would be concerned with any law that could bring members of the public onto railroad property," spokesman Andy Cummings wrote in an email. "CP personnel wear personal protective equipment and follow strict rules when performing any work on CP infrastructure. This is necessary for the safety of employees and railroad operations."
Cummings said on Thursday that the company has no comment beyond what it said previously.
Under the town's property maintenance law, property owners are required to either clean or make repairs to the properties when there's an issue cited by the town, or the town can take care of the problem and bill the property owner.