City, partners seeking grant for historic depot upgrades
The Baldwin City Council agreed Monday to move forward with a Kansas Department of Transportation grant application to make improvements to the city-owned historic Santa Fe Depot.
The city is attempting to secure $290,000 from the KDOT Transportation Enhancement grant program to help pay for work at the depot and its grounds. The grant requires a 20 percent local match, or $58,000, and the city is responsible for the project’s $25,000 design costs.
The council approved the project unanimously with members agreeing improvements to the depot and grounds fit with the council’s goal of increasing tourism in the community.
The grant and project first came before the council last month when it authorized submitting the grant application to the Lawrence-Douglas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, which made a recommendation on the city’s request to KDOT, a needed step in the process.
At that time, the council also authorized Mayor Ken Wagner and City Administrator Chris Lowe to talk with other parties with an interest in the depot about helping with the local match. Those parties include the Santa Fe Trails Historical Society, which leases the depot from the city, Midland Railway and the Kansas Belle Dinner Train.
Lowe told the council Monday the talks went well.
“Everybody came to the table with a very cooperative attitude,” Lowe said. “It was an easy discussion to have because everybody came to the table willing to pay their fair share.”
Roger Boyd, president of the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society, made a commitment of $15,000, which has since won the unanimous approval of the association’s board, and Midland Railway President Mike Fox committed the railroad for $20,600, contingent on approval of its board. In addition, the Kansas Belle Diner Train will provide $1,200 with the possibility of another $1,300 in 2014.
The project’s improvements include:
• $135,000 of improvements and maintenance to the depot, including an ADA restroom.
• $78,000 for new brick pavers and lighting for the depot’s platform.
• $71,000 for a shade shelter, benches and landscaping to the park east of the depot. The baseball backstop and old playground equipment would be removed.
• $6,000 for a paved ADA parking stall.
The grant application is not a sure thing. There is less than $10 million available, and 105 entities expressed initial interest in submitting grant applications.
To improve the Baldwin City application’s chances, the council Monday approved a $25,000 contract with BG Consultants to do the project’s design.
“A piece in making the application stronger is to have the (design) contract in place, so KDOT knows if you get the grant you’re going to go ahead with it,” BG engineer David Hamby told the council. “If you don’t have a contract, it’s a mark against the application.”
Should the grant be approved, the city and its partners would have to pay for the design in 2013. Construction, and its costs, would be in 2014.
Wagner said a successful grant application would not do all that was necessary to spruce up the area. He has already talked to Fox about Midland Railway’s responsibilities and would approach other business owners in the area.
Wagner said he would apply a lesson learned when two years ago the city offended business owners in the area with letters asking that they spruce up.
“We’re going to be doing it the old-fashioned way: sit across the table eyeball to eyeball and not send letters,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t make any sense to spend thousands of dollars and 50 feet way there is clutter.”
The general spruce-up of the area needed to include relocation of the recycling bins in the depot’s parking lot, Wagner said. Some options have already been suggested, he said.