Project cost may be $300k
The Canadian National Railroad has denied a proposal from a Storm Lake volunteer committee to move the historic depot to a lot near the school administration building for restoration as a community welcome center.
The Save the Depot committee remains undaunted, however, according to spokesperson Brad Strader.
They have sent the railroad a second proposal calling for the depot to be moved to the parking lot area on E. Railroad between Medicap and Salon Latino. The railroad owns the site, which is currently leased to the chamber to provide alternative parking for downtown employees.
The Canadian National had planned to demolish the depot, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, to replace it with a metal building for crew and storage.
The railroad refused to give or sell the depot to the Storm Lake volunteers on its original site, for fear of liability with tracks just a few feet from the building.
The committee then proposed the site near the school administration building, which is also owned by the railroad, but was turned down flat.
"A railroad official told us that it was because there was not enough right of way distance (from the tracks) at the site," Strader said. "We were first told that we needed 20 feet, then 25 feet, and now they say 50 feet of right of way."
The proposed site fell just a few feet short of making that requirement, but the E. Railroad lot would allow for the distance with some room to spare.
Strader said the railroad has not yet responded to the latest proposal.
However, he said that the railroad has recently approached a building owner about leasing space for the crew, as the depot has apparently developed considerable leaks in the roof.
"They are obviously aware of the deteriorating condition of the depot, and we hope that this means that they may be near ready to pass the depot on to us so that it can be restored," Strader said. He doesn't like to think of the alternative - that demolition plans could be re-initiated.
The local committee has expressed a willingness to work with the railroad to help it find an alternative site for a new crew/storage building. Strader, who has been the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce board for this year, said he would not want to see a prefab building put up at the current depot site downtown for aesthetic reasons.
The cost of the depot project is tentatively estimated at $300,000, with a short move of the building to cost around $50,000 of that. The committee hopes to launch a fund drive, investigate possible preservation grants, and to obtain funding from the state's historical leaders. It is likely that the project, if approved by the railroad, would not happen until summer of 2006, Strader said.