Concerned home, business owners meet with rail ombudsman
Posted on 06/26/2014
Springfield’s newly appointed rail-relocation ombudsman Thursday got a chance to introduce himself to some of the property owners who could be displaced by the project.
Theodis Lewis, a retired associate judge, said his role is to ensure that all of the rules are followed and that owners understand their rights when it comes to property acquisition.
“My job, for the most part, is to gather information and make sure the alternatives are made known to them,” Lewis said during his first public meeting at Union Baptist Church, 1404 E. Monroe St.
More than 75 people attended Thursday evening’s get-together, prompted by the ongoing plan to consolidate Third Street freight and passenger trains on the 10th Street tracks.
One of those in attendance, Springfield resident Gary Whitehorn, said he owns rental property along 10th Street. He was concerned that there might be a difference between what the property owners consider fair market value and what they are ultimately offered.
“There are a lot of people who still owe to the banks. They could end up with no property and still owe money on the property,” Whitehorn said.
A spring update on the rail-relocation plan has estimated that 120 east-side homes and 50 businesses would have to be moved. The relocation estimates also include two underpasses on the 19th Street rail line.
Carpenter Street is the site of the city’s first major rail-relocation project. Work is expected to begin in August or September on an underpass between Ninth and 10th streets.
Some of the people at Thursday’s meeting lived in areas that might be bought out, and others have businesses in those areas. Many wanted to know about the timetable for future underpass projects, but Lewis and the other speakers said those decisions have not yet been made.
Lewis said that when it comes to the sale of properties, there will be evaluations on their value and a chance for the owners to provide input.