MURPHYSBORO — The Murphysboro City Council has decided to bring legal action against Union Pacific over ownership of a portion of North 23rd Street.
The council directed city attorney Ed Heller to take the first steps in bringing a lawsuit against the railroad company.
MURPHYSBORO — For eight years, Amanda Tuttle and her husband have lived on Murphysboro’s North 23rd Street, in the childhood home in which he …
In September, some residential and commercial property owners learned that Union Pacific claimed they were trespassing on its property on North 23rd Street as they accessed their own homes and business.
One resident showed up at a City Council meeting to share her dilemma, saying she learned of it as she was preparing to sell her property. The railroad company also said they were going to charge the residents to access their property.
Heller said he received a call from the company this past week, but when he attempted to return the call, he only got a voicemail. He said Tuesday the city still hasn’t heard back.
Mayor Will Stephens asked the council how long it would like to wait before pursuing additional action.
“I feel like we have a very strong case regarding adverse possession or prescriptive right, and I don’t want to just continue to wait,” he said. “It is my opinion that this is just a stall.”
Heller said the city has asked for proof from Union Pacific that the company has maintained the roads. He said the city has its maintenance records of the road.
He said the city is going to bring an action against the railroad for declaratory relief. That means asking the court to declare the street as a city street by virtue of state statue, since Murphysboro has been using it as a city street and maintaining it for more than 15 years.
“My feeling is that we are going to have to sue them,” he said. “I don’t think they are just going to yield. That is not the way they generally do business.”
Heller said he doesn’t see this coming to a quick resolution, and he doesn’t see the railroad acting until the city pushes the issue.
“If I had to bet my farm, I'd say they are not going to respond seriously until we sue them,” he said.
Kristen South, Union Pacific’s director of media relations, said since the homeowner reached out to them in October 2017, they provided its standard lease process, but were unable to reach an agreement.
“Union Pacific strives to consider special circumstances and hoped to have the opportunity to work with the homeowner and the city of Murphysboro to find a solution,” she said in an email.
In that same statement, the railroad said it received a letter in December 2017 from Heller, in which it said it responded and asked for an opportunity to work toward a solution.
“Union Pacific has still not received a response from the Murphysboro attorney,” the statement read. “We remain ready to discuss the situation with all stakeholders to determine if a mutually acceptable solution can be found.”
Stephens said it is simply untrue that the city hasn’t attempted to reach railroad representatives to resolve this matter.
“We have made several calls, left several voicemails and made ourselves available,” he said.