Lawrence taxpayers should thank their city commissioners for showing appropriate restraint in applying for federal funding to preserve the Santa Fe depot in east Lawrence.
It was understandably tempting to apply for grant funds to cover the entire $1.35 million an architect’s report estimated it will take to complete the needed work on the depot. However, a grant that size would have required about $400,000 in matching funds from the city, an amount a majority of city commissioners was unwilling to commit given the city’s current budget constraints.
Instead, commissioners approved a grant application for just under $600,000 to pay for some of the building’s most pressing structural needs such as roof repairs, a fire sprinkler system and a new heating system. The $175,000 match that would be required for the grant would be far more manageable, but, as commissioners noted, the city also should be looking for other grants or private funding sources to cover that match.
Although local officials still need to work out an agreement to take ownership of the depot, it’s good to see this project moving forward. A federal grant would allow some giant steps in making the Santa Fe depot a more welcoming facility for Amtrak travelers, but commissioners were right not to get carried away in pursuit of “free” money.