Petitions with hundreds of names of residents opposing the county’s involvement in the Northern Lights Express (NLX) were presented at last week’s regular county board meeting in Pine City. County residents spoke during the public forum.
Laura McKenzie attends college in Duluth. She takes the bus back and forth from Pine City when she travels home.
“The bus is never full even on holiday weekends,” she said. “I don’t see this being very useful. I would never be able to take it.” McKenzie said she did not have a car and she’d have to have transportation to get to the train and to get home on this end. “How many people is this going to fit?”
Ben Weiner, Finlayson, said the NLX project hinges on it going 110 mph and a population of 4.5 million casino goers. “It’s simply a race to failure.”
Tom Swaim, Hinckley, said he’d helped organize the train forum in Hinckley the week before. The answers at that meeting from Ken Buehler, technology chairman of NLX, were canned, he said. “It was evident that he spoke for himself, not the train.”
According to the environmental assessment, Swaim said, the clean out station won’t be in Sandstone, it will be in Duluth or Minneapolis where it will serve more trains. He said the county board has put $131,000 into the NLX Alliance and they need to apply the money they give to NLX to services that directly apply to Pine County.
Other comments included the future isn’t in trains but newer forms of transportation, the county should be spending money on fixing roads and safety, it’s an expensive toy that someone else should pay for and residents don’t want to be taxed out of their homes.
The county can back out at anytime, said Al Wolter, Hinckley. He said he never hears any feedback from the board. “We don’t feel like we’ve been heard.”
County Board Member Mitch Pangerl asked the rest of the board if they could discuss NLX since the presenter did not make it to the meeting. Buehler was scheduled to make a presentation.
“I want to put it off until I hear our presenter,” said board Chairman Steve Hallan.
At the end of the meeting, Hinckley resident Dave Ostenson asked when it would be possible to have some communication with the board about NLX. He said he continues to come to meetings when he sees NLX on the agenda. “Are we scaring him (Buehler) away?”
Hallan said Buehler will be at the June 18 regular board meeting in Pine City at 10 a.m. and they could discuss it at that time. “If he doesn’t show up, we’ll have the meeting anyway.”