Loretto looks at its emergency preparedness plan

Five years ago Loretto and the Canadian Pacific Railway upgraded the railroad crossing at County Road 19 so that it can be converted to a whistle-free crossing, once money becomes available. City officials still are paying attention to the County Road 19 crossing. Medina Police Chief Ed Belland has informed the City Council about procedures for dealing with many types of emergencies, including train derailments. (Sun staff file photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Five years ago Loretto and the Canadian Pacific Railway upgraded the railroad crossing at County Road 19 so that it can be converted to a whistle-free crossing, once money becomes available. City officials still are paying attention to the County Road 19 crossing. Medina Police Chief Ed Belland has informed the City Council about procedures for dealing with many types of emergencies, including train derailments. (Sun staff file photo by Susan Van Cleaf)

Concerns about the County Road 19 railroad tracks, train and auto traffic were a major theme at the Loretto City Council meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 11.

This topic surfaced in two discussions on the council’s agenda. One began with a presentation from Medina Police Chief Ed Belland about emergency preparedness for city officials. The other discussion focused on what Loretto should say in a letter to state legislators about Canadian Pacific Railway trains blocking the railroad crossing for longer than 10 minutes, public safety concerns and traffic issues.

After the meeting, Mayor Kent Koch said railroad and emergency preparedness issues have come up before in Loretto. What is new this time is local nervousness following the massive train derailment near Casselton, N.D. that took place on Dec. 30. Loretto city officials and citizens are wondering how to avoid a similar incident in their city. If the worst were to happen, what could they do about it?

In the Casselton incident a train containing oil tanker cars collided with a derailed train that was carrying grain. The collision of the two Burlington Northern Sante Fe trains resulted in a massive 400,000-gallon oil spill. Since then, multiple agencies have discussed the fact that North Dakota is the nation’s number two oil producing state, and it lacks sufficient pipeline capacity to transport growing oil output from the Bakken region. Trains are picking up much of the oil transportation load, and many of them pass through the Twin Cities area daily.

Police Chief Belland said Loretto had a train derailment in 1991, 30 days before he joined the Medina Police Department. The incident posed an inconvenience for area residents and businesses, and cleanup went well. If anything happens in the future, he hoped it would be an inconvenience and not something more serious.

Since 1997 police chiefs from 18 Lake Minnetonka cities have banded together to create a single plan for and train for most imaginable types of emergencies, Belland said. Prior to that each community had its own plan. Now the ability of the 18 cities to share resources “makes us really strong,” he said.

Belland has served as emergency management director since 1997. Loretto Fire Chief Jeff Leuer is Loretto’s emergency management coordinator. They meet with the area emergency group monthly and have developed a plan that for dealing with a variety of events, including distribution of medicine for bird flu, apprehending an active shooter, train derailments, tornados and more.

Emergency management officials used to have to search through a thick stack of documents to determine how to respond to a particular type of emergency, Belland said. The new more unified plan is a slimmer stack and makes it easier for emergency responders to determine quickly how to begin.

Whatever the emergency, Loretto’s response would begin with a phone call to the Mayor, followed by a telephone tree to forward information to city councilors and other key officials, A command center would be set up; the place would depend upon the emergency. The Mayor can declare an emergency for up to three days. After that the City Council could get together to extend the emergency. The council’s primary role would be to enact regulations. A public information officer would keep citizens informed. The type of emergency would determine who would serve as public information officer.

LETTER TO LEGISLATORS

The City Council directed City Clerk Mary Schneider to draft a letter to state legislators describing Loretto’s concerns about the County Road 19 railroad crossing.

City Councilor John Neumann said Canadian Pacific Railway Trains at times have blocked the County Road 19 crossing for longer than 10 minutes, and state law says that 10 minutes is the maximum allowable blockage time. He expressed concern about the ability of ambulances and other emergency vehicles to get from one side of town to the other while the crossing is blocked.

Mayor Kent Koch said he had taken pictures of traffic being backed up all the way to County Road 11 while a CPR train was blocking the crossing. Motorists were turning around and driving the wrong way on County Road 19 and thus creating an additional public safety problem. Koch sent these photos on to anyone he thought might be able to do something about the problem.

After the meeting, he said CPR was repairing the railroad tracks last summer. This caused trains to slow down and block the crossing for longer periods of time. Loretto still has concerns about the condition of the railroad tracks and railroad cars. The city and CPR have upgraded the crossing so that it eventually could be converted to a whistle free crossing, once money becomes available.

HENNEPIN YOUTH SPORTS GRANT

The City Council approved an agreement for a $9,400 Hennepin Youth Sports grant that will reimburse Loretto for the purchase of equipment for city ball fields. The money will go towards purchase of a portable batting cage and a drag attachment for grooming infields.

OTHER

The City Council also:

APPROVED a recycling rate increase of $.75 per month per resident, bringing the total rate to $3,75 per month. City Clerk Schneider said Loretto needed to raise the rate so the city could cover its recycling expenses.

ACCEPTED a $5,000 donation from the Loretto Fireman Relief Association and earmarked the money for fire department expenses.

CHANGED the date of the regular November City Council meeting to Tuesday, November 18.

RE-APPOINTED Kent Torve and Kathy Taylor to two-year terms on the Redevelopment Advisory Committee. Appointed Sarah Lindberg to replace Clark Lohr on the committee. Her term will end on Jan. 31, 2015.

APPROVED payment of a $1,500 annual service fee for upgrades to the software program that Loretto uses for reading water meters.

Contact Susan Van Cleaf at susan.vancleaf@ecm-inc.com

 

 

 

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