WORCESTER, Mass. — On day two of the trial between the Grafton & Upton Railroad and the town of Grafton, the railroad’s attorney told the court that Grafton officials knew of the propane terminal plans longer than they claim.
Defense lawyer John A. Mavricos argued that the railroad’s nearly completed terminal at 42 Westborough Road, near the CSX rail line, is operating under federal pre-emption laws, as defined by the Interstate Commerce Act. He claimed the town wants representation that doesn't exist in law.
Railroad owner Jon Delli Priscoli testified under oath that he wanted to build the facility because the U.S. energy market is changing and demand for propane is growing.
During testimony, he said he contacted John Holstein, owner of several propane businesses – including LPG Ventures, based in Missouri and Spicer Gas based in Connecticut – who Delli Priscoli said he hired because of their expertise in transporting and unloading this fuel.
Delli Priscoli said in his testimony he spent $1.8 million to prep the site in North Grafton, and then signed a $3.2 million lease with Holstein, who in turn would deliver four 120-foot propane tanks to the site, and build catwalks that would siphon the propane from the rail cars to the holding tanks.
He also testified that he is building separate off-loading rails from the G&U “short line” because he was told it would be safer and that, in the first year of operation, he plans to receive between 1,500 and 2,000 propane rail cars.
Delli Priscoli testified that he and town Administrator Tim McInerney toured the Westborough Road site in March to discuss road improvements that required the town to work on railroad property. He said he told McInerney his intentions to develop a propane terminal. Delli Priscoli testified McInerney said “the railroad can do anything.” Delli Priscoli then said he told McInerney he wanted to be a partner.
He also testified that, in July, he attended a meeting at the Grafton Police station with McInerney and Chief Normand A. Crepeau to discuss lighting, security fencing and traffic signals for the propane site.
Under cross examination, attorney Ginny S. Kremer of Bowman & Penski asked why his company did not present a fire safety analysis to the Board of Selectmen despite a request made by Jacob Nunnemacher, a state fire marshal from the Department of Fire Services, during a meeting attended by representatives of the railroad, Grafton Fire Chief Michael Gauthier and his deputies, and McInerney.
Delli Priscoli testified that, although he was not at the meeting, he said his employees told them they would not do it because the propane terminal site fell under pre-emption status.
Delli Priscoli testified that, in his experience as a real estate developer, when you “talk to the town manager and fire chief, then you are in fact talking to the town.”
The trial will continue at 9 a.m. Thursday. Judge Timothy S. Hillman said he would like the deliberations to end this week.