Plans for the city to assume ownership and restore the Santa Fe Depot in east Lawrence have been dealt a blow.
Assistant City Manager Diane Stoddard confirmed the city has been told that its application for a $583,000 federal grant wasn’t selected for funding.
“We can reapply in the future, but it will be awful hard to wait,” said Carrie Maynard-Moody, a leader of a citizen’s group that is working to restore the depot at Seventh and New Jersey streets. “But I worry about going through two more years without a new roof, and the heating system is really just limping along.”
City commissioners soon will have to decide whether to keep the project alive. Commissioners are expected to be briefed on their options at Tuesday’s meeting.
When commissioners applied for the grant in December, they were told the depot —which serves as Lawrence’s Amtrak station — needed $600,000 worth of critical repairs. Those included a new roof, a new heating system and several upgrades to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The building is owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Corp. The railroad has an interest in transferring ownership of the station to the city, but commissioners previously have said they are uncertain whether the city should accept ownership of the depot without having a funding source for making many of the necessary repairs.
Commissioners particularly expressed concern about not having funding to do necessary ADA work, since it would be unlikely that a government-owned building would be able to receive an exemption from ADA compliance issues.
Maynard-Moody, though, said her group will urge commissioners to move ahead with taking over ownership, especially since Amtrak ridership at the station has been increasing. Leaders with the Kansas Department of Transportation, which administered the federal grant, said Lawrence’s application was hurt by the fact the city does not already own the building.
But Maynard-Moody said she doesn’t think it is realistic to start a public fundraising drive to garner the needed $600,000. The next round of transportation enhancement grant money likely won’t be available until 2013.
Where that leaves current plans is a bit uncertain.
“It is a place the city could be proud of,” said Maynard-Moody, who has suggested the city look at making the depot the main station for the city’s public transit system. “I think everybody wants this to happen, but we do understand it is a matter of finding a way to do it without hurting the taxpayers.”
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts street.