It’s time to fish or cut bait on new train station plans

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 22, 2004

A dubious multi-modal transportation facility has become evenmore so following revelations and questions about the city’sfinancial contribution to the project.

The controversial project – a brainchild of former Mayor BillGodbold – has been on the drawing board since at least 1999.

City officials have been successful in getting $4 millionallocated for the proposed facility, with any federal money havingto be matched with 20 percent local funds. Yet after five years,the project remains mired in questions about what actually will bedone and how much it will cost the city both for construction andfor long-term operation.

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These questions and others are the same that we, some aldermenand others have been asking since the project’s inception.

Some questions simply have never been answered while vagueconcepts about museums and retail spaces have been the responses toqueries about facility usage, with no firm guarantees that currentbus or train services would relocate there.

The latest question, one that could ultimately decide themulti-modal facility’s fate, regards whether the city will bereimbursed for over $103,000 in funds spent so far without oneshovel of dirt being turned.

Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron said the answer will determineif that money has been an investment in a facility that comes tofruition or is just money that the city has lost.

In search of a definitive answer, city officials are planning ameeting with federal transit officials after Thanksgiving. Aldermenhave suspended facility work until that answer is received.

Last week was the second time work on the transportationfacility has been halted.

In July 2003, miffed that aldermen had voted to stop work on hispet project of a new city hall, Godbold ordered work on thetransportation facility halted. A short time later, however,aldermen voted 4-3 to resume work on an estimated $2 million”scaled back” version of the facility after getting assurances thatno additional city funds would be required.

Last week, aldermen heard a new estimate that it would costaround $2.7 million to get renovated buildings ready for use.Alderman at large Les Bumgarner said the board had received “badinformation” from the architect about the expected readiness of thefacility.

Mayor Bob Massengill is pursuing a prudent course in seekingreimbursement of city funds spent thus far on the project.

If that effort is successful, city officials may want toconsider a lesser version of the transportation that actually willnot cost the city any more money.

If reimbursement efforts do not succeed, it’s time to park theidea of the transportation facility permanently. Citizens have beenspent too much and been kept waiting long enough for a train at astation that has yet to be built.