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City board takes detour around big questions

Brookhaven’s planned Multi-Modal Transportation Facility — acombination train and bus depot to be built in the old “smokestack”area downtown — got another financial commitment last week.

The $75,000 grant presented Thursday by Southern DistrictTransportation Commissioner Wayne Brown will be used to fundenvironmental study and other work at the proposed site on NorthRailroad Avenue. Once the environmental work is complete, it isexpected the city will be able to access almost $4 million infederal money that has been allocated for the project.

While plans to build the station seem to be running at a fullhead of steam, officials continue to detour around what we thinkare some important issues and questions.

When the idea of the multi-modal station was first raised almosttwo years ago, some community leaders and businessmen raisedquestions about short-term local match expenses (the federal fundsmust be matched by a 20 percent local contribution) and long-termoperational costs:

* How much in real dollars will Brookhaven citizens have tocontribute to the project?

* How much will it cost to staff and operate the facility onceit’s completed?

* What will the upkeep costs be to the community?

* If business at the station fails to cover its operatingexpenses, how will the city make up the difference?

* Should the city be in the development business, or should thatbe left to private investors?

* Should the city be in the ‘land lord’ business (several shopsand a restaurant are part of the project)?

* Where are the plans for the station? Other than a conceptualdrawing, there’s nothing to be seen of a building that could end upwith close to a $5 million price tag.

Those questions have yet to be answered.

Another question is whether or not Greyhound bus service, whichcurrently has an agreement with a private business for stationservice, will even agree to locate downtown. City officials weretold last week that Greyhound was now interested but still had notcommitted to the project.

Supporters of the multi-modal facility say it will improveblighted areas around its proposed North Railroad Avenue location.We agree that something needs to be done in that area, which is oneof city’s most unattractive.

This newspaper does not like to criticize economic development.We have in the past — and will continue to in the future –whole-heartedly supported plans that benefit Brookhaven and LincolnCounty. And, we are not saying the multi-modal facility isn’t aworthy project. We don’t know whether it is or not. Like Brookhaventaxpayers, the city has not provided us enough information to makethat decision.

The taxpayers of Brookhaven should keep asking for answers tothe questions raised above. After all, if this project fails,they’ll have to clean up the financial train wreck.