NEW BRITAIN - Connecticutâ€™s U.S. senators have stepped in to help city leaders gain access to the findings of a federal investigation into Decemberâ€™s train derailment.
Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter Tuesday to Heath Hall, the acting administrator of the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration asking that the agency turn over the findings so the city can get paid for the cost of cleaning up the disaster.
â€śThe city of New Britain is seeking recovery of its costs from Pam Am Railways (which owns the tracks),â€ť the senators said in the letter. â€śPan Am is refusing to pay the city pending the release of the findings of the Federal Railroad Administration.â€ť
The FRA announced the investigation into the derailment was completed nearly two months ago. But as of Wednesday, the city still had not received the report which includes the cause of the derailment.
The city needs the cause of the crash to determine who will pay for the $38,432 incurred for the clean-up and police protection for the crash site. City attorney Joseph Skelly billed Pan Am Railways in December but the city as yet to receive a dime, city officials said.
â€śThe content of the letter speaks for itself,â€ť Mayor Erin Stewart said. â€śWe have worked diligently since the accident occurred - more than eight months ago - to recoup the costs associated with the derailment. We have remained patient and are looking to resolve this incident as soon as possible.â€ť
The city was also asking the railway to either demolish a brick wall that was damaged during the derailment at their own expense or pay the city $40,000 to fix the wall.
The city filed an FOIA request with the agency two months ago. The Herald also has an outstanding FOIA request for the report. Okechi Chigewe, a spokeswoman for the agency, said they have a backlog and the FOIA requests are filled in the order they are received.
â€śIâ€™ve asked the FRA to respond quickly and to conclude their investigation so the City of New Britain can be reimbursed its hard-earned tax dollars spent on responding to this private railroad incident,â€ť Blumenthal said.
The freight train heading south toward Berlin derailed Dec. 6 as it was rounding a curve in front of Columbus Plaza, leaving seven cars on their side with some debris falling into the road. Two tanker cars came to a stop across Chestnut Street, immediately tying up traffic. Nearby stores were evacuated as bystanders gathered to witness the spectacle, which spanned the entire front of Columbus Plaza.
The cleanup took three days, with police maintaining a presence in the area to prevent people from getting too close.
The police department spent $24,405 in overtime and regular time to deal with the cleanup and another $893 in other expenses such as gas for the mobile command center, which was stationed at the derailment scene for days.
The Department of Public Works spent $7,605 and the fire department spent $3,000 in equipment and wages, city officials said. New Britain Emergency Medical Services spent $1,770 and the Health Department spent $756 in wages for their time on the scene.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.