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(rshsdepot) Johnson City, TN

From the Johnson City Press

Mohon says effort to save depot would cost too much

By James Watson
Press Staff Writer=20

As the debate continues over the historic CSX train depot, officials at
City Hall have requested another update, while momentum to save the
building from demolition seems to be wavering=2E

City officials have toured the building, and at least two structural
engineers =97 including an independent engineer who looked at the building=
the request of the Johnson City Press =97 have given preliminary reports t=
the depot, though in need of major repairs, is structurally sound=2E

Located at the intersection of West State of Franklin Road and Buffalo
Street, the building is the only remaining identifiable train depot in
Johnson City=2E The Johnson City Development Authority, which works to
revitalize the city=92s downtown, is hoping to save the depot because of i=
importance to Johnson City=92s railroad history and its link between the
=93Tree Streets=94 neighborhood and the downtown=2E

City Commissioner Ricky Mohon, who is also a member of the JCDA, has said
he was keeping an open mind about the building, but recently decided
rehabilitating the depot would just be too costly=2E

=93Even if the building is =91structurally sound,=92 my feeling after disc=
with the city building inspector and the independent engineer is that this=

project is prohibitively expensive,=94 Mohon said in an e-mail to City
Manager Mike West=2E =93Too many repairs will be needed to make the buildi=

In response to Mohon=92s comments, JCDA member Craig Torbett questioned th=
commissioner=92s decision and was surprised by the statements=2E

=93I don=92t think he is in a position to know how much it is going to cos=
Torbett said=2E

The JCDA has been working for months to gain an understanding of the costs=

involved, Torbett said, and was hoping to have until March before reportin=
to the City Commission=2E

But Mohon has directed the JCDA to appear before the commission Thursday
for an update on the group=92s progress with the depot=2E

The JCDA was granted $20,000 by the commission in December to evaluate the=

depot and address problems concerning environmental as well as title
questions, and then report back before April=2E

While Torbett said significant progress has been made in these areas,
bringing his group back in such a short time span is complicating its

=93This is distracting us from being able to do what we were instructed to=

do,=94 he said=2E

The city is facing several issues regarding the depot=2E The actual buildi=
is owned by CSX Transportation, but the land is owned by East Tennessee
Railroad=2E Complicating the scenario, a clause in the property deed with
ETRY says if the land is no longer used to the benefit of the railroad, it=

would revert to the heirs of the previous owner, Tipton Jobe=2E

CSX has offered to hand the depot over to the city with the stipulations
that the city build a fence around a section of the loading dock and
acknowledge there is asbestos present=2E

But ETRY is only willing to lease the land to the city for a period of 25
years with an option extending for another 25 years=2E The lease payments
would be $3,000 annually for five years, increasing at a cost-of-living
rate after the initial years=2E

Another concern is environmental damage to the land, and the railroads wan=
the city to take responsibility for that through insurance=2E

(Contact James Watson at jwatson_@_johnsoncitypress=2Ecom)=2E

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The Railroad Station Historical Society maintains a database of existing
railroad structures at: http://www.rrshs.org