People wanting to save the historic Moline train depot have until Dec. 18 to raise $155,000 in pledges to cover the cost of moving the building to the Western Illinois University-Quad-Cities Riverfront campus.

“It’s not very long,” Barbara Sandberg, the chairman of the city’s preservation commission and a member of the Moline Preservation Society, said Wednesday.

“But at least by that time we’ll have an inclination of what kind of corporate sponsors we have. We will have made the contacts.”

Working together, members of both preservation groups have secured about $30,000 in pledges from individuals, and “we need to go to corporates now,” Sandberg added.

The reprieve until December was granted Tuesday night by a unanimous decision of the city council.

The circa-1900 building on River Drive stands in the way of the new Interstate 74 bridge project, and  preservationists previously had brokered a plan they hoped would save it: Move the depot to the Western Illinois University campus, also in Moline, 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 provide a new foundation, and the city had informally agreed to donate the building and pay for repairs and utility disconnections, an amount estimated at $155,000.

Preservationists thought everything was on track until last month when aldermen, meeting as the committee-of-the-whole, voted instead to sell the building to the state, which would then demolish it.

Council members said that, given the difficult economic times, they did not want any taxpayer money from the city or state going toward moving the depot, Mayor Don Welvaert said.

An ordinance to sell the depot was on Tuesday’s agenda, but before the meeting, two aldermen asked that the proposal be pulled to give preservationists more time, and the consensus was that the issue could wait until the end of the year.

“I picked the 18th (of December) because that’s our last meeting of the year,” Welvaert said.

“At some point in time, the council has an obligation to sell or relocate the depot one way or another,” he added.

Members of the preservation groups, including Sandberg and her husband, Dick, solicited pledges over the weekend by staffing a booth at the Great Train Expo, a traveling show that was at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock Island.

 “If we didn’t see what we’re doing as worthwhile, if we didn’t see the value in it, we wouldn’t do it,” she said.

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