City council says no to train depot

Published on Thu, May 6, 2010 by Tara Nelson

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With an unofficial 4-3 straw vote Monday,  Blaine City Council indicated it will not be supporting a local group’s efforts to move the city’s historic train depot to a park near the end of Milhollin Drive.

A majority of council members said they had concerns the city could be liable for upgrades and maintenance of the building once it is moved if Blaine Coalition for Historic Preservation, the group that is spearheading the effort, ran out of money.

Speaking for herself, as well as absent council members Jason Overstreet and John Liebert, Blaine mayor Bonnie Onyon said the decision was unfortunate but it was based on financial risk to the city she was not willing to take.
“One of the things I hate the most is quashing a group that wants to get something done but I can't jeopardize the city’s financial commitment that we’re not presently or in the near future capable of. I just don’t think I would think it’s a good deal of committing the city to taking on a liability at this point and time.”

Council members Charlie Hawkins, Paul Greenough and Harry Robinson said they would have been likely to vote in favor of the project.

Hawkins said he disagreed with Onyon’s rationale, countering that the city was willing to forfeit $1.5 million in lease termination fees to airplane owner Don Nelson when it closed the municipal airport last year.

“We closed down the airport and paid Don Nelson a million and a half dollars – not including airport improvement grant repayments – whereas we could have waited it out another year, and you’re worried about $50,000?”

Council member Scott Dodd replied: “We have a piece of property that's worth more than $1.5 million dollars.”