Green River Star -

By David Martin
Editor 

Council hears depot options

 


The UP Depot continues to generate discussion amongst the Green River City Council.

Tuesday night, Misty Springer, the city’s grant’s administrator and public relations specialist discussed the various options available to the city regarding the building. The city originally received the building as a donation from the Union Pacific Railroad, but leases the land it sits on under a 30-year revolving lease from UP.

In May 2014, the city received an EPA grant of approximately $200,000 to cleanup and remove hazardous materials from the building. According to a survey of the building, it contains lead-based paints, asbestos and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are commonly referred to as PCBs. Movement on the EPA grant was stalled because of an issue involving the legal description for the depot. Springer said the updated description and agreement between the city and UP was sent to the company earlier this spring, with the agreement being approved by UP’s lawyers recently. Once the agreement is in place, the city can move forward with the hazardous material cleanup. The EPA grant covers a majority of the costs associated with hazardous waste cleanup, but only if plans for the building involves it being renovated.

The city originally received a $1 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council to initiate the first phase of renovations to the depot. Under the grant, the city would have to put forward $2 million as a match to receive the money. During September of last year, the Council decided falling tax revenues and other budgetary concerns made the project unfeasible, with the Council deciding to return the grant to the Wyoming Business Council. Springer said the building could be used as a commercial space and the city could create a special enterprise tax zone to provide incentive for businesses to locate within the depot. She said the depot could be used to provide the city with historic tax credits as well, which would be purchased by corporations seeking to lower their tax burden, with the money generated going directly to the city. So far, the city has committed $72,249 to the depot.

Springer said while it’s possible for the city to use the grant to deal with the hazardous materials to later demolish the building, the EPA may not be as willing to work with the city on a future project if that occurs, saying the agency has a long memory.

The city previously sought to lease out a restaurant and create an artists’ workshop with some of the space inside the depot. Councilwoman Lisa Maes said that was the original goal, but claimed someone changed the plan later on to focus on using a majority of the space for artists. However, Councilman Allan Wilson disagreed with that assessment. Wilson served as the head of the city’s parks and recreation department prior to successfully running for a seat on the City Council. Wilson said the previous Council did instruct city staff to change the scope of the renovation plan.

The longer the building sits however, the more it will cost to renovate. Springer said the cost of sealing the building will increase by between 10 and 25 percent each year the city waits. Additionally, the longer the building sits in its current state, the more likely other property values in the area will drop. Springer said a metaphor involving broken windows applies to the depot, saying if nobody fixes the window, in this case the depot, people will assume no one cares. She said because the depot sits near the railroad, the possibility for vandalism and other problematic issues increases due to transients utilizing the rail system. She believes action such as sealing the building to await better financial conditions and removing debris and hazardous material would go a long way in showing residents and businesses the city cares about the area the depot is located in.

Many Council representatives voiced support of sealing the building to prevent further deterioration.

“I’m a firm believer the longer we let the building sit, the more likely we’re going to have problems with it like Lincoln (High School),” Wilson said.

Wilson said the city can look at further grants later to renovate the building once it’s sealed. Councilman Gary Killpack did voice concerns about the city not having control of the land, fearing that the city could invest heavily into the depot, only to have UP take the land back under its control at the end of the 30-year lease. However, Maes disagrees with Killpack’s concern.

“I don’t think the Union Pacific would take that back,” she said.

 

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