Fresno business owners rally against rail plan

Fresno business leaders gather at Klein's Truck Stop in Fresno to protest high-speed railFresno business leaders gather at Klein's Truck Stop in Fresno to protest high-speed railDozens of businesses in the path of California's proposed bullet train converged at Klein's Truck Stop in northwest Fresno today to  vocalize their opposition to the plan.

The rally, organized by the Central Valley Tea Party, drew hundreds more to hear their testimonies as they crowded the parking lot at Klein's, which has served truckers and travelers for decades from its location at Herndon Avenue and Highway 99.

Steven Brandau, head coordinator for the Central Valley Tea Party, opened by railing against the project's $68 billion price tag, of which only $6.6 billion has been identified for the San Joaquin Valley segment.

But inciting more ire amongst the public, he said, is the fact that many Fresno businesses along the rail's path are without options of where and how to relocate once the California High-Speed Rail Authority takes their land while most have not even been informed that they will be affected.

"There are many businesses behind me where we're the first to tell them about this and we think that's criminal," Brandau said. "Some of these businesses have only three, six and 12 employees. Every single business is valuable to us."

Susan Romo, owner of Romo Towing Service, said the 84-year-old business at 4625 Golden State Blvd. supports five families and provides needed services to not just the surrounding community, but the city and county of Fresno as well.

"We can't just uproot our business and reestablish somewhere else after we help businesses and families there," Romo said.

Norm Nelson, president of Thermo King at Church and Railraod avenues, said he will likely lose his parts department and warehouse at his 35-year-old refrigeration business when the bullet train moves through.

"We use every square inch we got and we're going to lose what looks to be an acre of land," said Nelson.

Besides 34 employees that rely on their jobs there, Nelson said that a good portion of the  $317,000 he paid in sales tax in 2011 and nearly $10,000 in property tax will be diminished.

Reverend Larry Arce, CEO of the Fresno Rescue Mission, said he will receive a double whammy with the high-speed rail, which will displace thousands of homeless in need the organization's building at Ventura Avenue and G Street and at its newly acquired property on Broadway Lofts where the Vagabond Lofts used to be.

"Even if we were to get money, where would we put another rescue mission?" he said. "No one wants a rescue mission near them because of the things they see."

Shawn Shiralian, owner of Klein's Truck Stop since 2002, said he has over 100 employees and pays over $1 million in sales tax to the city every year, assets that may be lost to Fresno if he's forced to move.

In all, 100 businesses along the rail route through the city have formally expressed their discontent with the project by signing a letter of opposition directed at the Fresno City Council and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors asking them not to give their blessing to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Others include Riverside Nursery at Golden State Blvd. and Market Street, the Cosmopolitan Restaurant at Fresno and G streets and Bulldog Recycling at Golden State Blvd. and McKinley Avenue.

As well, the Central Valley Tea Party encouraged them and others to show their displeasure for the 520-mile rail plan at the Authority's next meeting to be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Fresno Convention Center when officials are expected to adopt the Environmental Impact Report on the Merced to Fresno section.