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Railroad talk back on in Covington
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The railroad discussion is back on track in Covington.

The Covington City Council voted 4-2 Monday night to form a committee to gather the facts on the unused Norfolk Southern Railroad line, which has been for sale in some form since 2007.

The last publically announced price was around $1.275 million for the 4.92 miles of rail line in the city limits; this did not include .04 acre of property needed for a future downtown civic center project.

The city will form a committee composed of at least six members, including one council member each from the East and West wards, Mayor Kim Carter, Mayor-elect Ronnie Johnston, City Manager Steve Horton and a city attorney, as well as any other city staff that are needed.

Mayor Kim Carter originally suggested the idea and said the city should gather more information on the railroad purchase before making a final decision. She noted that federal earmarks totaling $1.03 million are able to be used by the city for a potential purchase.

Councilman Chris Smith first made a motion to table discussion until after the first of the year, because of the council's previous vote in June to not talk about the railroad purchase for the rest of the 2011 calendar year. Councilman Keith Dalton seconded Smith's motion, but it failed 2-4.

Councilman Mike Whatley then made a motion to form a committee to gather information on a potential purchase, with Councilwoman Janet Goodman seconding. Dalton and Smith opposed the motion, but it passed.

"I'm real disappointed in this council. We voted three times not to talk about or discuss this until after this year was done. And once again people rode the fence and jumped off the wagon and I'm very disappointed this has happened," Smith said after his motion was voted down.

"This is about finding out more information it's not about taking any action," Carter said.

"This is about not letting it go," Smith said.

"Excuse me, I'm not finished," Carter said. "This is about finding out information. There are a lot of legal concerns, transportation concerns, DOT concerns. I think that was the idea behind the committee, because I don't think any one person could adequately absorb all that or do all the heavy lifting to find out those facts."

Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams, who previously voted to not discuss the issue until 2012, responded to Smith's statement about being disappointed by saying she was not taking sides but wanted to listen to the facts.

"In hindsight, listening to something does not necessarily mean commitment, one way or another. I think it means you listen," Williams said. "It's not so much that I've been pushed off the fence, that I'm straddling the fence, I feel that I need to listen to what is said, maybe it was fast to not listen the first time, but I want to listen now."

Councilwoman Ocie Franklin noted that she was not present at the June meeting when the council voted not to discuss the issue. She said the issue was not personal for her and that she was disappointed at Smith's disappointment.

Because the committee will be an officially formed city committee, its meetings will be open to the public, Horton said.

The first meeting has yet to be scheduled.