Town and Vermont Railway back in court

The 40,000-ton salt shed at the intermodal facility in Shelburne opened in early October and has been used all winter. Photo by Boston Neary

Whose intermodal project is this? Vermont Railway’s or Barrett Trucking’s? That is the fundamental question that District Judge William K. Sessions III is evaluating, as testimony continues this week in U.S. District Court in Burlington in the Vermont Railway v. Town of Shelburne case.

This latest hearing is a result of Judge Sessions’s ruling in January after an October ruling when he ordered Vermont Railway and Barrett Trucking to turn over loan documents for the intermodal facility.  The Jan. 12 Order stated, “The Court made clear that its key concern was ‘whether or not there was a representation by Mr. Barrett that he had an interest in the property which is other than what he disclosed in Court.’” The intermodal facility was completed in Shelburne last fall.

The hearing was held Monday morning and all day Tuesday. Mike Breen, the Loan Officer at Merchants Bank, spent much of the two days on the witness stand where he disclosed that the bank loaned Barrett Trucking the money to buy the property where the intermodal facility is located. Testimony is scheduled to resume (at press time) on Wednesday afternoon with real state attorney Kate Dingle providing expert testimony regarding the “unique” financing structure of the deal between Vermont Railway and Barrett Trucking.

Witnesses not yet called but expected to testify on Monday, April 3 include Vermont Railway President David Wulfson and Joseph Barrett, President of Barrett Trucking.

This week’s hearing was granted based on information obtained by the Town last September. The documents the Town obtained showed that Barrett Trucking had received a $1,457,883 loan “to fund a portion of the construction of a transload intermodal facility located on land owned by Vermont Railway in Shelburne Vermont” as well as additional funding of a $2.5 million loan. The Town argued that the transload facility “is clearly a Barrett Trucking project.”

The Judge had originally ruled in favor of Vermont Railway last June 29, because of federal preemption, and in part because as Barrett Trucking was to be the facility operator, they had no financial interest in the property and no control over any of the activities there.

In addition, the Nature Conservancy filed an intervention with the court last week. Judge Sessions denied the motion; the attorney for the organization can access documents with redacted financial information, however.
It is unclear at this time whether more time will be needed after next Monday to hear more testimony and when the Judge will make his ruling on the case.

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