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(rshsdepot) Barstow, CA

Harvey House options explored
By KELLY DONOVAN/Staff Writer - The Desert Dispatch

BARSTOW -- A Barstow city councilman suggested Tuesday that the city's staff and police department should consider moving to the Harvey House to save money.

Councilman Lance Milanez brought up the subject at Tuesday's council meeting, although it was not on the agenda. He said he'd like staff to study whether this is feasible, and other council members agreed.

"I would like staff to do that ... just so we know what our alternatives are," Milanez said.

He also said the city should explore the possibility of selling or leasing the Harvey House to another organization.

The city had been hoping to lease space in the historic train station to the National Park Service, but the federal government rejected the city's bid.

Although the city is protesting the federal government's decision, council members agreed to start exploring other options for the Harvey House.

"We spent close to a $1 million putting improvements into the Harvey House for offices at one time," Milanez said. "It's my understanding that the majority of that building is ready to occupy."

Before determining if such an arrangement is viable, the councilman said the council needs to know how much it would cost to move the entire city and police department staff to the Harvey House.

Milanez also said the council needs to get an estimate on how much money the sale or lease of Barstow City Hall on Mountain View Street could generate.

"We do need (staff) to do some preliminary background," he said. "Without the estimates we'd just be guessing again."

In the 1990s, the council considered moving city offices to the Harvey House, but the move never happened. Councilwoman Helen Runyon opposed the arrangement then, and she said Tuesday that she's still against it.

Councilman Paul Luellig agreed that the city needs to explore the possibility of moving city offices to the Harvey House. He also said city staff members worked hard to prepare the bid for National Park Service office space, and said he's disappointed the government rejected it.

According to city correspondence, the basis of the rejection was the government's security concerns about the Harvey House -- primarily because of its proximity to train tracks.

After thanking staff for their work on the bid, Luellig said he thinks it's unfortunate to see the Harvey House not being fully used, considering the millions of federal dollars that funded its restoration.

He urged residents to write their members of Congress to protest what he said was an unfair decision.

"The bottom line is ... it's that NPS didn't want to go down there, and they finally found an out," he said. " I think we need to tell our elected representatives it was an unfair out."

The head of the National Park Service's local office disputed Luellig's statement that "NPS didn't want to go down there."

"That's absolutely not true that the Park Service didn't want to go there," said Mary Martin, superintendent of the Mojave National Preserve. "It's not the Park Service that makes the decision on security. We didn't judge the bid."

She said a separate agency, the Federal Protective Service, considered the building unsafe, and the federal General Services Administration rejected it on that basis.

Also, Martin said her agency modified its requirements for office space so the Harvey House could be included in the bid proposals.

Kelly Donovan can be reached at kelly_donovan_@_link.freedom.com or 256-4122.

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