GOODMAN -- Goodman's city council held an open forum to invite citizens of Goodman to express their thoughts about the city having "no horn" zones on the railway tracks within the city limits. Emotions ran high Thursday, Jan. 26, as both residents and their neighbors filled the Goodman Community Building at 233 E Garner Street to speak about the sensitive issue.
Officials present at the meeting were Mayor J.R. Fisher; council members John Bunch, Nicholas Smith, Beth Hallmark, Clay Sexson; city clerk Madisun Branstetter and assistant city clerk Krystal Austen.
Fisher began the forum, discussing the agenda of the meeting. "We're not gonna be looking for an answer tonight, period. We're just here to discuss everything. There's not going to be any voting. I am here for input."
He said that, about a year ago, residents came to him asking if he was going to do anything about the train horn noises within the city limits, as they are an inconvenience.
"No horn zones" or "quiet zones" direct trains to cease the required sounding of their horns when they approach certain crossings.
Fisher says he was in touch with Chris Ashley, the signal project engineer at The Kansas City Southern Railway Company, and he made it clear that "engineers have spotlights, cameras, everything out there. I don't care if it's a dog, that horn will be blowing, period. There's not going to be an instance where it's not going to be blowing if they see anything out there."
For residents who think "no horn zones" strictly prohibit engineers from sounding their horns during emergencies, they can put their fears at ease knowing that this is not the case. Nothing will stop a train from sounding its horn. Safety is the top priority.
He opened the floor to the residents and neighbors to speak their thoughts on the matter.
Heith Lewis has been a Goodman resident for 50 years. Some of his family members live in Goodman, including his wife Tayna and Jerod Lewis. In 1991, a train accident took the lives of his mother and sister. He also almost lost his brother.
"Look around right now. And think of your best friend, your husband, your wife, daughter and (imagine) tomorrow, you can't touch them ... Let them blow and blow hard for each one of your family members."
Heith Lewis referred to the fact that a no-horn zone could take the life of someone you care about and, if they had blown the horn in 1991, perhaps his mother and sister would still be alive.
The next speaker, Daniel Davidson, says he believes that a physical barrier is more effective than a train horn when it comes to keeping cars off the tracks. He added, "I think [one thing] we could all agree on is that we have inadequate crossing options for children leaving and coming to the school. We can do something better there. ... And then once we have done that ... maybe we can have this conversation again."
Long-time resident Recia Clark said, "I've been here most of my life and, yes, it's an inconvenience. But safety comes before someone not liking the horn because it keeps them awake ... I'm 100 percent against the train not blowing."
Barry Ruddick says he's lived in Goodman for 70 years, and he grew up during a time when trains were a common occurrence. From his experience, he feels individuals will walk across and around the tracks even if there are barriers.
"You can build a fence down the middle of the street, and they'll get around it," Ruddick said.
He feels that, as a community, Goodman needs to look out for each other and their kids.
"The community has to help with this thing. It just can't be 100 percent from the railroad or the city of Goodman. Everybody's gotta be involved," Ruddick said.
Many would agree that the forum's most emotional petition came from Jerod Lewis, who is Heith Lewis' brother. Everyone remained silent as Jerod Lewis poured out his emotions through his words. His speech was heartbreaking.
"It's always going to come down to human error. They might not be paying attention because, if they can miss a train crossing, they can surely miss one of our children. We need to blow the horn going through town.
Jerod Lewis related moments in his life where he has witnessed death and, tragically, sometimes the death of children. These traumatic events caused him to leave the fire department. He feels no one should have to see the death of a child, and he asserts these horn soundings save lives.
Many others stood up and expressed their thoughts on the matter.
Among those in attendance, the overall consensus was to keep the train horns blowing, despite the inconvenience.
Fisher pointed out this forum wasn't for voting or making a decision in regard to the no-horn zones. This was a place for residents to voice their concerns and feelings. Residents can put their minds at ease if they were not able to attend the meeting.
He also said the meeting was "just a starting point for safety features we could put in place around the schools" that are close to the tracks.
"I thought this was a great meeting and a good place to start," Fisher said.