Railroad still avoiding bridge issue

Mindy Carls

When Burlington Northern Santa Fe’s director of public works projects in Minneapolis got tired of hearing from Orion officials, he passed the headache to someone a few hundred miles to the southwest.

Now Byron Burns, the railroad’s director of bridge engineering in Kansas City, apparently is developing an earache that keeps him from hearing the messages Village President Jim Cooper leaves for him.

Citing safety concerns, the railroad closed the 13th Avenue bridge two years ago. The village has been trying ever since to get the railroad to repair or replace it.

During June, Cooper called Burns four times, and Burns has called Cooper zero times.

At the village board meeting on Monday, July 6, Cooper told the trustees he had called Burns earlier in the day. 

“If I don’t hear from you by the end of July, I will contact our U.S. congressman,” Cooper told Burns’ voice mail.

The village president said he has documented the dates and times of his calls.

Cooper also has e-mailed Chad Scherwinski, the director of public works projects who passed the Orion bridge on to Burns.

“I said the new guy won’t talk to us,” Cooper told the board.

As long as the bridge is closed, fire and ambulance personnel trying to reach the west side of town have to use the Seventh Street bridge if a train is going through town.

The extra distance adds minutes to the response time.

Swimming fences

Orion’s building inspector, Bob Scott, said he had received numerous calls about whether fences were needed for inflatable pools that are above ground.

The village does have an ordinance that says a 48-inch high fence with a lockable gate must be built around a structure holding 24 inches of water, Scott said.

It’s actually the building code that contains the requirement, Village Attorney John Ames said.

At first glance, the requirement seems to apply only to permanent structures installed since the village adopted the current version of the code, Ames said.

Cooper agreed the village was only concerned about new inflatable pools. As far as he knew, all in-ground pools already have fences.

Residents need to be careful not to position pools, or any other structures, on easements, Village Clerk Lori Sampson said. 

Only grass and gardens can be located on easements, she said. 

In an emergency, village employees and utility crews can tear down any building on an easement, Cooper said.

Trustee Mel Drucker asked if the 48-inch sides of an inflatable pool could be considered a fence, assuming the owners remove the ladder that gives swimmers access. 

Ames said he wanted to look into that question.

The village is concerned about small children, Drucker said. Twelve-year-olds could climb over a fence or the wall of the pool if they wanted to. 

Diamond work

Jim Parry, Orion Middle School’s athletic director, approached the village about sharing the cost of materials needed to renovate the ball diamond on OMS?grounds, Trustee Roger Peterson said. Volunteers would do the work.

Teams based in Orion want to use the diamond, but it has drainage problems. The concession stands, dugouts and bathrooms need to be redone.

Cooper suggested asking the Orion Fall Festival committee for funds. 

In other business

• Trustees approved United Health Care River Valley as the new health insurance provider for village employees and their families. The move will save $10,000 to $12,000 a year.