We, the Concerned Citizens of the Marston Community, are confused by the article published in the Daily Journal. We are very appreciative of the attempt to highlight the dilemma that we were faced with on Monday, February 4, 2013. The article stated that per Emergency Services, that CSX is responsible, however we have addressed the issue of the access to Highway 1 to this community since the closing of all crossings except one since the widening of Highway 1.
The access to Highway 1 on the Old Laurel Hill Road can only be gained by traveling a one-way path on the outskirts of the NC Wildlife Land which is a dirt path full of mud holes and low clearance, which makes it almost impossible for a car to travel.
We have made numerous attempts to have the issue of only one safe access in and out of this community. We have addressed this issue to NCDOT, Richmond County Board of Commissioners, local Fire Department, and CSX with no attempt by any of these agencies to help us find a suitable solution to ensure the residents of our safety in the event of an emergency. As the article stated by Donna Wright, time is of importance in the event of a medical emergency. We do appreciate your picture of the closing on Highway 1 and Marston Road, however, did the reporter take a picture of the access path to the crossing that enters Old Laurel Hill Road?
When we addressed the issue to the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, our County Manager stated that Richmond County did not have a dog in this fight. We asked for their help with support of contacting some agency, if the county could not help by putting down gravel, widening it for two car passage, and filling in holes to make it a suitable access if we had to use it in case of emergency. We are only asking them to band together with us to explore all avenues that may assure us that our safety is of importance and that we can reach a solution. We are tax paying citizens and we are honestly perplexed by this comment. Are we not residents of Richmond County? We realize that it will take all of these agencies to come together and help us find a solution, but when we are not supported by these agencies it is disappointing.
As a resident of this neighborhood I, Lewis Alsbrook, made the initial phone call on Monday night, to the Emergency Services, informing them that there was no access in or out of the community onto Highway 1. I was told by the dispatcher that they did not know. The article stated that Donna Wright contacted CSX regarding the closings, however an official from the DOT stated to us that both crossings had to be closed at the same time for the purpose of maintenance which were customary procedures for CSX. I was told by Emergency Services that they contacted CSX.
There were no signs on Highway 1 that the railroad crossing onto Marston Road or Old Laurel Hill Road were closed on Monday night, however signs were placed on Tuesday. Travelers trying to access Marston Road had no warning indicators that the crossing was closed, therefore causing extreme danger trying to turn around and re-enter Highway 1 north or south because the flow of traffic, which is a large number of commercial vehicles, was intense as Highway 177 and Highway 1 merge into 4 way traffic.
The concerned citizens of this community sprang into action and contacted Sheriff James Clemmons who did not know of this problem. He assured us that the sheriff’s department would investigate. Your article stated the crossing at Old Laurel Hill Road was re-opened that night. Following several conversations with DOT, CSX and Emergency Services Monday night and calls from residents in the community, the Old Laurel Hill Road was re-opened per Emergency Services. No resident in this community was contacted by Emergency Services to inform us that this access had been re-opened Monday night.
Since the work on the tracks was being done by a contract company, why did CSX not inform them of the basic operating procedure that should have highlighted the need to inform the residents who would be affected by the closings? We immediately contacted all other residents in this community that we did not have access out of the community by way of Highway 1 and that if anyone needed emergency services during the night they need to tell the Emergency dispatcher that we could only be accessed by Boyd Lake Road onto Marston Road in Scotland County. It was only after the community took action that some residents, not every resident affected, received a call from Emergency services approximately one hour later. The Richmond County School system bus drivers were not notified therefore all county agencies were not notified. We were told by parents, bus drivers did not know that they could not access our community, and informed parents that they would have to take students to school, because they did not have prior knowledge of this closing which meant they would have to cross county lines. Is the Richmond County School System not a part of the Emergency notification process?
There was a follow-up call from Emergency Services on Tuesday morning to some residents, not all residents in the community. Sheriff Clemmons did come to our community on Tuesday morning and talked with residents, traveled the one-way path to access to Old Laurel Hill Road, and assured us that he and his department would do all they could to ensure our safety. We are appreciative of the help that we received after the fact, however we feel that this is not a solution to our problem. CSX railroad crossings can be closed at any time due to maintenance and/or train emergency. We, as citizens residing on this side of the CSX track should be given a safe access to Highway 1 that will not cause our safety to be at risk in case of a need for access to Highway 1.
We need another crossing that will give us access to Highway 1. The present plan that sends EMS and Fire and Rescue to Cognac Road is unacceptable. It takes far too long for them to respond in an emergency.
— Lewis Alsbrook is a concerned resident of the Marston Community, and was appointed by the community to be its representative.