The Clay County Commissioners have come to a consensus decision on an engineering firm to conduct a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rail Study.
During the afternoon portion of Monday's meeting, Hannum, Wagle and Cline Engineering (HWC), Terre Haute, and Clark Dietz, Indianapolis, made pitches to get the project, which will determine the status of the railroad lines and feasibility of economic development of the Chinook Mine area.
After hearing both proposals, the commissioners agreed to choose HWC for the analysis, which is being funded by a $200,000 grant from the USDA and a $50,000 match that has been provided by three benefactors.
Going in, both firms were viewed in a positive perspective by the commissioners, but the presentations made the difference in the end.
"I like Clark Dietz and they do some great work, but I was a little disappointed in their presentation," Commissioner Paul Sinders said. "I was leaning toward choosing HWC to start because I felt they had the better initial proposal and I think we made the right choice for this project."
The focus of the two presentations were on opposite ends of the spectrum as HWC discussed aspects directly relating to the rail study while Clark Dietz appeared to be more zoned in on other projects which had the potential of popping up after the study is completed.
"We don't want to be too keyed in on the rail aspect, but more on the total development of the area," Clark Dietz Project Manager Doug Valmore said during his company's presentation. "The focus is not only on the study, but also how it can be used as leverage for other projects."
While the view of long-term development was a point of interest, it is not part of the main scope of this project.
"It's difficult to determine what development would be best for the area before you know what is there to begin with," Michael Flint, President of Flint Group, Frankfort, Ky., said. "Seeing what utility and transportation options are currently there can be part of this project, but beyond that, it's hard to know what we can do."
One major advantage HWC seemed to have over Clark Dietz was its experience in working with Indiana Rail and CSX, which controls the rail lines included in the project.
HWC is using URS as its rail firm and, in turn, has been given support by Indiana Rail for this project.
"Indiana Rail has been wanting to do this for a while," HWC Project Manager Brian Pohlar informed the commissioners. "They have even offered to share some of the costs of conducting a rail telemetry should the project move forward.
URS Rail Infrastructure Manager Richard Schroeder said his company is one of six that is on a retainer contract with CSX, who owns the majority of Indiana Rail.
"We have had a contract with CSX since 2000 and we do a lot of design and public project work for them," Schroeder said. "In my time working for URS, I have worked on a total of about 75-80 different rail projects and there are also other grants out there for rail rehabilitation."
Pohlar added the field work for the project should be able to be completed within 60-90 days after they get started and, weather pending, the full rail analysis should be finished in no more than six months.
However, just because the commissioners have chosen HWC for the work, it does not mean they are guaranteed to conduct the analysis.
"I will contact them to put together a possible contract with a more in-depth scope plus their rates," Flint said. "It is possible we could have a draft within a week to 10 days, then we can meet again to review it."
In a meeting conducted Jan. 23, Flint informed the commissioners if the scope or costs of the project are not to their approval, they could choose to enter negotiations with a different company.