Cobb gives OK for quiet train crossing; tables paying $1.4 million consultant more

Apr. 27—MARIETTA — A nearly decade-long process to quiet trains traveling through a residential neighborhood culminated in approval by the Cobb Board of Commissioners.

The commission gave the final thumbs-up for establishing a quiet zone railroad crossing at Nickajack Road near Heritage and Thompson Parks. A quarter of the intersection is in the city of Smyrna and three-quarters falls within unincorporated Cobb.

The vote this week to approve was 4-0, with Chairwoman Lisa Cupid absent.

Train conductors are obligated by federal law to blare the horns of the train as it approaches an intersection that is not designated a quiet zone.

However, trains cannot routinely sound their horns in an area considered a quiet zone, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, though they may still be sounded in emergency situations or to comply with federal rules.

The creation of the quiet zone at Nickajack cost $435,000 for specialized equipment, such as signalization for train conductors to not blow the horns and extra crossbars to warn approaching drivers there is a silent crossing.

The county paid $326,250 from its 2016 special-purpose local-option sales tax funds to fund the crossing equipment, while Smyrna contributed $108,750 from its SPLOST.

In other action, commissioners were set to vote on an additional $285,000 for consultant Accenture to continue its work on Cobb's strategic plan, but the item was withdrawn from the agenda prior to the meeting.

At the board's Monday morning review of the agenda, commissioners JoAnn Birrell and Monique Sheffield said neither could support the move, which would add to the $1.4 million the county has already allocated to Accenture for development of the strategic plan.

Cupid asked the board how they wished to go about getting feedback on the plan, as Accenture would not be able to do so without being paid more.

Commissioner Jerica Richardson said she found the information Accenture provided to the commission in a presentation earlier this month was enough to bring back to her constituents, and her colleagues agreed.

The commission decided to hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to hear residents' feedback on the plan, and each commissioner will share more details with constituents and answer their questions during town halls sometime in May.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a special service fee schedule for Cobb firefighters on Tuesday.

Cobb Fire provides certain services, such as personnel on standby at crowded events and hazardous material clean-up, that call for fees separate from standard salaries. Under the approved fees, the department will be paid $75 per hour for each employee, $200 per hour for an ambulance with two personnel and $440 per hour for a firetruck staffed with 3-4 people.

Fees paid to the department for equipment and supplies and hazardous material clean-up will be based on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's rates for using different types of equipment.

The commission is set to meet next on Tuesday, May 9 at 9 a.m. on the second floor of the government center at 100 Cherokee St.