City moving ahead with travel hub

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Brookhaven aldermen voted unanimously Tuesday to continue with aproposed multi-modal transportation facility, but a design for theproject will be determined later.

With the project on the drawing board for years and time runningout to use some federal money allocated for the project, cityofficials have been mulling whether or how to proceed. With thecity’s required match in the form of donated land on North RailroadAvenue, officials have approximately $990,000 to spend on thefacility.

Construction-related options include a renovation of the oldpower plant building, which officials rejected because it wouldrequire additional city funds or tearing down the current buildingand constructing a new one. Architect Michael Barranco on Tuesdaynight presented a third option that includes partial demolition andpartial renovation of the existing building.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“We’re not building things as good as we used to build for themoney,” Barranco said.

The new building option, estimated at around $971,905, wouldprovide 2,400 square feet of space. The third option would give2,850 square feet at an estimated cost of $978,222.

“We stand ready to do whatever the board directs us,” Barrancosaid.

While the decision to proceed was unanimous, aldermen weredivided over which option to pursue. Officials scheduled a worksession for next Thursday to tour the old building. They plan todecide at the April 5 meeting.

Ward Four Alderwoman Shirley Estes expressed support for keepingan old part of Brookhaven. Also, with the larger space, she saidthe new option could have more uses than developing a smaller newbuilding.

“One more new building serving a limited function is just onemore new building serving a limited function,” Estes said.

Others, including Ward Five Alderman Tom Smith and Ward TwoAlderman Terry Bates, voiced concerns about potential unknown costswith the renovation work and cost of in-kind labor needed from busycity crews. Both options include about $31,000 in estimated in-kinddemolition assistance.

“My idea was to stick with the new building,” Bates said.

Mayor Bob Massengill said he had received word from railroadofficials, who have agreed that the train can stop 1,600 feet northof the current depot. With the train stopping in the new location,downtown rail crossings would no longer be blocked, he said.

Massengill also issued a warning about future costs associatedwith the facility. He mentioned heating, cooling, maintenance andother operational expenses.

“We all need to realize once it is built there will be costs,”Massengill said.

The mayor also mentioned passenger statistic indicating that3,500 to 4,000 people a year use the train.

“There is a need for a train depot,” Massengill said.

Saying it would look bad for the city to have to return federalmoney allocated for the building, Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameronsupported the transportation facility project. He said the city isstill “scratching in the dirt” after several years of projectdiscussion.

“We need to make a decision, and let’s see some progress,”Cameron said.