People hoping to save the historic Moline train depot got support Thursday from Illinois Sen. Mike Jacobs as he met them on the depot site and called on the city to “really, really take another look at” participating in moving the structure.

And if the Moline City Council doesn’t want to reconsider, preservationists said they have a backup plan: They will try to raise the estimated $155,000 that would be the city’s share of the moving project themselves.

The 1900 building on River Drive stands in the way of the new Interstate 74 bridge project, but preservationists had brokered a plan they hoped would save it — move the depot to the Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities riverfront campus where it would be renovated as a welcome center.

In addition to involvement by the university, the Illinois Department of Transportation agreed to spend up to $1 million to move the building and to provide a new foundation, and the city had informally agreed to donate the building and pay for repairs and for utility disconnections.

Preservationists thought everything was on track until Tuesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting, when Moline aldermen voted instead to sell the building to the state, which would demolish it.

Council members said that, given the difficult economic times, they didn’t want any taxpayer money — city or state — going toward moving the depot, Mayor Don Welvaert said.

Final action would be at an upcoming council meeting. City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher said the issue could come up as early as Oct. 2, with final action Oct. 9.

Barbara Sandberg, chairman of the city’s preservation commission, asked Thursday at the news conference that if the city doesn’t want to help financially, that it at least give depot supporters more time to get pledges.

The nonprofit Moline Preservation Society, which is accepting pledges, already has $15,000 in hand, plus another $20,000 as a contingency fund, president Diann Moore said.

Jacobs said he personally would pledge $250, and he called on residents as well as companies such as Deere & Co. and Kone to “reach into their pockets” and help save “this important historical landmark.”

“As a local kid, I was fascinated by the railroad and my whole family worked for the railroad,” Jacobs, D-East Moline, said. “It is very important that we preserve our past as we’re developing our future. The money is available. The state has the money set aside. And the university has a plan in place for re-using this building.”

The city will receive $141,000 for selling the property to the state, an amount the city’s preservation commission has recommended be put toward the depot costs, leaving a $15,000 gap. Because preservationists have $15,000 in pledges, there would be no net cost to the city, Sandberg said.

The money from the sale cannot be put into the city’s general fund; it must be deposited into the city’s tourism fund, which the city used back in 1994 when it purchased the depot from Frank Foundries. That is when the building was used by the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Steinbrecher said he supposed an argument could be made that if the depot is used as a welcome center, that it would be eligible for tourism funds, “but it’s really a moot point since the city council’s direction was clear; that no city funds will be spent in relocating the depot.”

 


EARLIER STORY

Illinois likely to raze old train depot

Alma Gaul at 4:30 a.m.

 

The 1900, city-owned Moline train depot appears headed toward demolition.

The red-tiled building with the big clock along River Drive stands in the way of the new Interstate 74 bridge project, and preservationists had hoped it could be moved to the Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities riverfront campus to be used as a welcome center.

A proposal to that effect was put forward in late 2010. The Illinois Department of Transportation agreed to pay up to $1 million for the 1ƒ-mile move and a new foundation, Western agreed to take over and renovate the building, and the city informally agreed to donate it and pay for repairs to the roof and windows and for mechanical and electrical disconnections.

But at Tuesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting of the Moline City Council, aldermen voted 5-2 to instead sell the building to the Illinois Department of Transportation, which — without the city’s involvement — will demolish it.

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Mayor Don Welvaert said the overall feeling of the council is that the expense cannot be justified at a time when the city is laying off workers, including firefighters, and raising property taxes and fees.

And it’s not just city money that aldermen are concerned about, he added. If the city went ahead with its end of the bargain, that would force the state to spend $1 million in taxpayer money that it doesn’t have, he said.

Barbara Sandberg, chairman of the city’s historic preservation commission who has worked long and hard to find a happy ending for the depot, was holding out hope Wednesday that the council might change its mind.

The first reading of an ordinance to sell the property is expected at the Oct. 2 council meeting, with the second reading and adoption on Oct. 9, City Administrator Lew Steinbrecher said.

Sandberg’s argument is that while the city would have to spend an estimated $155,000 for repairs and utility disconnections, it will receive $141,000 from the state for the appraised value of the depot property.

The city’s historic preservation commission recommended in August that the city put the $141,000 toward moving costs, leaving a net cost to the city of about $15,000.

And she said the commission already has pledges in hand to cover that amount, meaning the net cost to the city could be nothing.

She also pointed out that the $141,000 cannot be put into the general fund, but must be deposited into the tourism fund which the city used in 1994 when it bought the depot from Frank Foundries.

But Welvaert and 7th Ward Alderman Sean Liddell, one of eight voting to sell the depot, said they still are opposed to the proposal.

“It’s a tough decision,” Welvaert said. “I would have liked to see the depot relocated, and we tried. We thought we had a good option. But the times are such that it just doesn’t make good sense, spending money that neither the city nor the state has. It (the depot) is part of our culture. We tried, and we couldn’t do it.”

The reason the DOT was willing to pay for the move in the first place is because the depot is a local historic landmark and the department is mandated by federal law to make every effort to preserve and protect it, Sandberg explained.

But if the city withdraws its support for saving the building, the state is free to go ahead with demolition, she said.