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JUNE 17 - JUNE 25, 2014

'Train Station of Dreams' Could Be Disaster

By Glenn Choolokian

June 17, 2014

Last week the city celebrated the ground breaking of the new train station.

It's no secret that I have never supported this project. It's costly to construct and brings with it unimagined operating expenses.

I think it is important that one has an idea of what something will cost to operate and maintain before starting the design work. But this hasn't been the case with the train station, although it has been 20 years in the making.

In early 2013, former Councilman Sam Fruscione and I met with Mayor Dyster, Tom DeSantis and Sue Sherwood, a representative from Wendel Engineering, the outside firm that has been paid millions to design the train station.

We talked for an hour and at the end of the discussion I was troubled that there was absolutely no idea on the part of the city or the consultant as to how much it would cost to operate and maintain this facility.

The administration didn't appear to have even a rough notion as to what agencies or people were going to be tenants in the building or what arrangements were going to be made in terms of rent, lease, insurance and security.

Councilman says train station will be expensive, with few riders.


Most surprising is that the city had no plans to operate the facility once it was completed. A consulting firm, the mayor told us, will be hired to run the building. The cost of this is unknown.

I refer to the administration's approach to the train station operation and maintenance as "the Field of Dreams" plan. They think they can build it for $45,000,000 and the passengers and nearby development will magically appear like baseball legends stepping out of Kevin Costner's cornfield.

We've seen how well that sort of plan worked out with the courthouse on Main Street.

Anyone who knows me knows I am a big fan baseball. I was a player and I now coach youth baseball. However, I know the difference between a fictional baseball movie and the incredibly costly reality of owning and operating a train station.

Will additional city employees be needed to operate and maintain the building or will private employees maintain the building at a cost to the city?

The train station will require extensive and ongoing legal work. Will current city law staff be able to handle this or will additional taxpayer money have to be spent to hire outside legal consultants to handle contracts, leases, insurance etc.?

What are the responsibilities and liabilities associated with the city owning this train station?

What about security? Will city police patrol the building and grounds or will it require private security? There is no way our existing police force can take on the 24/7 duties required to keep the facility secured without additional costs.

How does that additional expense get covered?

At various times the administration has said that Border Patrol, Homeland Security, Amtrak and/or food vendors and restaurants will occupy space in the train station. Do we know if any of this is true? If so, how far have negotiations and contractual obligations been discussed?

I submit these comments not to be the fly in the ointment or the buzz kill but to pose serious questions that call for timely, truthful and serious answers.

The lack of transparency, planning and communications regarding the train station reflects a stupendous eagerness on the part of the Dyster administration to spend millions and build it, regardless of the consequences.

Millions more will be spent to maintain it.

"Field of Dreams" was a box office hit.

"Train Station of Dreams" could quickly become a box office disaster.





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