September 2, 2014

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Officials, recommendation backers differ on overpass cost figures

WELLINGTON — Village officials said supporters of a controversial charter amendment on the proposed Wellington railroad underpass are misrepresenting the project’s cost in mailings to residents.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has told the village in recent weeks that its share of the project will be about $836,000, not the $1.5 million quoted by the group, Committee for the Right to Vote, according to Village Administrator Steve Pyles.

Pyles said the village has the money set aside for the local share. More than half of the project will be paid from railroad noise mitigation funds awarded to the village as part of the merger process when CSX took over the rail lines and increased train traffic, Pyles said.

The charter amendment, Issue 60 on Tuesday’s ballot, would require a vote on any “significant design changes” to plans for an underpass at the railroad tracks on state Route 58, just north of state Route 18.

Council President Sandy Denes said she, too, is concerned that inaccurate information is being passed on to voters.

“It’s misleading and is being used to further their cause,” Denes said of the mailings. “People are ready for this underpass — we’re ready to sign the final contract.”

The charter amendment was prepared for the ballot by James Farago, Rose Barrett and attorney Gerald Phillips.

Farago could not be reached for comment, but one of his sisters, Wellington Village Council member Helen Vronsfield, said that the group shows the $1.5 million cost because it was recorded in the minutes of a Sept. 17 Council meeting. She also said that she has seen total cost estimates as high as $27 million for the project and the village’s 5 percent share of that cost would be about $1.35 million. She said that the group was standing behind its figures.

In 2005, Phillips represented Farago and other members of the North Main Street Coalition in a futile effort to get the underpass moved from Main Street. Voters overwhelmingly rejected two issues on the November ballot. One sought to rescind an ordinance that the Village Council had passed to contribute up to 5 percent of the cost of the project. The other called for an overpass at Maple Street instead of North Main Street.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.