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Council hears options for use of Shafter Railway, gets feedback on Shafter Press decision

The Shafter City Council heard a couple of different options for the city's railway at their meeting last week.

The first option was to be purchased by BNSF, which is used to connect to their main line.

The second option was to be used by third party transporters for their products, including connecting the two coasts.

There will be further discussion on the topic, with both options having merit, Mayor Chad Givens said at the Tuesday night meeting.

Because Shafter's facility connects and runs to the BNSF mainline, it could serve as an active siding and railcar train storage for BNSF.

The city's market research team contacted BNSF local management to gauge interest in the carrier's use of Shafter's tracks.

Both the local superintendent, who is based in Bakersfield, and the general manager were interested in using the facility. It is likely that they may want to purchase the facility rather than lease or operate it, according to the city.

During the public comment section of the meeting, local historian and the Shafter Press owner Stan Wilson criticized the council on its decision at their last meeting to reject a proposal made by The Shafter Press newspaper.

He noted that no one from the paper was at the meeting where the proposal was discussed, since the item had been on the regular Tuesday agenda and the meeting was canceled, according to postings at City Hall. It was then placed on the agenda for a special meeting the next day.

It was proposed that the city partner with the newspaper promoting Shafter with a full-page paid ads in the paper every other week. The deal would include other benefits, including help with communications with residents. Wilson pointed out that when Reed Print originally closed the paper nearly six years ago, it was then-Mayor Cathy Prout and the city who approached Wilson and several others about saving the city's newspaper.

Wilson also said that it is very important for a city to have a local paper, saying it serves as its voice and vital information for the community. "When approached, several community members stepped up to help with saving the paper. We never intended to make a lot of money on this project, but we did it to save a part of our city's history."

Wilson also said that although social media is very popular now, a lot of people do not use social media. He said that the paper also publishes needed legal notices, publishes articles about local schools, businesses, and clubs.

Mayor Givens commented during council reports. "I have grown up with The Press, looking through the papers. I believe that there are things we and the community can do to support the paper. I do believe that everyone has an ability for free speech, and a community deserves a free press, and I know that something can and will be done."

Givens went on to say that Wilson is one of the main sources of Shafter's story and he believes that something will be done to allow this story to be told, though gave no details.


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