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June 6, 2014

Salem threatens legal action over rail ties

Removal of old rail ties is the issue

SALEM — For nearly two years, large piles of railroad ties have sat along town roadsides, including outside Rockingham Park.

The ties were removed from the rail bed by the Iron Horse Preservation Society in September 2012, as part of the $1.1 million rail trail project, aimed at providing a 5.1-mile bicycling and walking trail.

But the ties have become such an eyesore, there have been numerous complaints to selectmen and Town Hall.

Selectmen voted unanimously this week to authorize Town Manager Keith Hickey to seek legal action against Iron Horse. The group was supposed to remove the ties as part of a contract between the group, the town and New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

Town officials claims Iron Horse — a nonprofit organization of railroad enthusiasts — did not fulfill its contract and should be held accountable.

“It is just frustrating,” Selectman Stephen Campbell said yesterday. “It’s too bad because it’s a project that people are trying to get done and would be a good thing for the town. It’s somehow tainted a good project.”

The Nevada-based organization agreed to remove rails and creosote-soaked ties from the former Boston and Maine rail line in Salem in exchange for the materials.

The steel rails and wooden ties are recycled, the rails sold and used to help restore historic railroads. The organization also paved part of the trail.

But the Pennsylvania energy company contracted to dispose of the ties closed, Iron Horse chief operations officer Joseph Hattrup said. That meant the organization would have to find another firm and pay double the cost — approximately $23,000.

Although Hattrup said yesterday the town did not notify him of its decision, the hundreds of ties will be removed in July and taken to another plant. Two of the piles are along Route 28.

“They will be ground up and turned into fuel in Maine,” he said.

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