EAST PALESTINE, Ohio — As cleanup continues from the toxic train derailment back in February, Norfolk Southern says it will be staying in East Palestine "for the long term" by opening a permanent field office in the Columbiana County village.
In a Tuesday press release, the railroad said it had purchased the former Brittain Chevrolet office at 248 North Market Street with plans to turn it into its own space beginning this fall. The building is actually located across the street from East Palestine's historic train depot, which Norfolk Southern recently donated back to the village with plans to renovate it.
"We've pledged our long-term commitment to East Palestine and this permanent field office is a physical symbol of that pledge," Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw said in a statement. "For the past six months, we've been leasing space at the Centenary United Methodist Church. The church has been a home away from home for hundreds of Norfolk Southern employees and contractors, and the congregation's warmth and willingness to open their doors to us will never be forgotten."
NS says it has committed roughly $68 million to East Palestine and surrounding communities since the wreck that sent toxic chemicals flowing in to the air and waterways. However, the company has also endured harsh criticism in the wake of the disaster, and on Wednesday the Federal Railroad Administration released a review chiding Norfolk Southern employees for too often only doing the bare minimum when it comes to safety.
Besides the space at the church, Norfolk Southern also operates a Family Assistance Center on Rebecca Place, which will remain open until the field office is finished. Renovations on the North Market Street location are expected to begin this fall, with projects including the addition of a brick façade exterior "to better match the aesthetic of the downtown district of East Palestine."
"This permanent location is a testament to Norfolk Southern's dedication to working hand-in-hand with the residents of East Palestine," Stacey Mansfield, director of community affairs at Norfolk Southern, said. "Our team looks forward to serving the community through our new field office and establishing a home for the long term."