WORCESTER, Mass. – Grafton Assistant Town Administrator Kevin Mizikar and Fire Chief Michael Gauthier testified in U.S. District Court on Tuesday that they were not fully aware of the railroad’s plan to build a propane transfer terminal until late 2012, beginning the trial between the Town of Grafton and the Grafton & Upton Railroad.
An attorney for the railroad said the town knew about the plans months earlier.
Judge Timothy S. Hillman will decide whether railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli’s operation to build a propane transfer station on Westborough Road is entitled to pre-emption rights.
During testimony with Ginny Sinkel Kremer, Grafton’s attorney, Mizikar said Delli Priscoli never mentioned his intentions for the Westborough Road parcel even after numerous site visits and board of selectmen meetings.
Mizikar said he didn’t know about the plans until November, when a resident alerted him about the site construction.
He said he and the board of selectmen also learned in November about a fire safety analysis prepared for fire marshals that detailed the size of the propane operation and how the fuel would be loaded and off loaded.
Mizikar said the report showed additional railroad tracks in different locations, which differed from a site plan that Delli Priscoli gave him.
Mizikar also said Delli Priscoli was not forthcoming in sharing the site’s trans-loader agreement without a signed confidentiality agreement. When the town refused, Delli Priscoli produced a one-page summary instead, according to Mizikar.
“We thought it would define the pre-emption claim,” Mizikar said. The town then submitted a long questionnaire to the railroad’s attorney, which was returned partially completed, he said.
The assistant town administrator was cross examined by John A. Mavricos, attorney for the railroad, who said he presented evidence that Town Administrator Tim McInerney, Gauthier, and a state fire marshal saw the propane station plans in July when they met with Delli Priscoli in the Grafton Police conference room.
“Did you ask the town administrator if he had a discussion with the railroad on the proposal?” Mavricos asked Mizikar, who responded yes. Later, Mizikar said that it was not until “late 2012” when he learned this information.
When Gauthier took the stand, he said the propane proposal presented by the railroad during that summer meeting with the state fire marshal was nothing more than “conceptual drawings.” When Delli Priscoli talked about off-loading 80,000 gallon propane tanks, Gauthier said he told Delli Priscoli to present it to the board of selectmen, create a proposal and then “come back to us.”
Kremer asked him why he didn’t notify the town, to which Gauthier said he sees many proposals but waits until official documents are produced. “It would be a time waster,” he said. He then testified he did not know of the formal plan until he reviewed the fire safety analysis.
But Mavricos asked, during cross examination, just how different the proposal was from the fire safety analysis.
“They’re similar,” Gauthier said.
“Is it fair to say, given the level of detail, this is more than just talk, but real plans?” Mavricos asked.
Gauthier said: “I thought they were still proposals. They were not stamped documents.”
The trial will continue on Wednesday at 9 a.m. in U.S. District Court.