Fighting abandonment

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 11, 2011

By Billy Davis

Panola County government’s participation in a now-forming railroad authority sets up a organization that could fight abandonment of rail lines in North Mississippi, Panola Partnership’s CEO said Monday.

Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons explained the formation of a railroad authority following an executive session with the Panola County Board of Supervisors Monday morning.

Simmons cited possible litigation as the reason for the executive session. He and supervisors emerged from the 40-minute meeting with the public announcement that the county board was voting to be included in a railroad authority.

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The vote was unanimous. Simmons informally told board attorney Bill McKenzie he would give him a copy of a similar resolution from Grenada.

A recent meeting in Grenada included formation of the North Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority, which was formed with the expectation that stated plans to abandon rail in South Mississippi will eventually include tracks from Grenada to the Tennessee state line.

Simmons told The Panolian that A&K Railroad Materials is trying to “fast track” abandonment of railroads lines in South Mississippi.

“We feel like it’s a matter of time before they abandon railways in North Mississippi, too,” Simmons said. “They’ve said they won’t but we don’t believe that. That’s what they do.”
If A&K gets permission to abandon its own Mississippi rail line, the company would pull up the crossties and rail. Simmons said the materials would most likely be shipped to South America, where they would be used to lay tracks there.

A&K states on its Web site that it buys and recovers approximately 500 miles of railroad track each year for its customers.

Simmons was joined in the executive session with Garrick Combs, who represented the Miss. Development Authority.

State officials are concerned about the abandonment plans and are suggesting the formation of the railroad authorities by local entities, Simmons said.