Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big talk about small trains

From Augusta Gazette: Big talk about small trains
Augusta, Kan. — It took a split vote from the city council, but the Wichita Model Railroad Club received a 5-year lease to continue using the old fire barn for their club headquarters.

The last lease signed by the group was 10 years ago. City manager Bill Keefer worked with the group to identify and solve some issues with the utility usage and recommended a 5-year lease with a rent cost of $800 per year – up from the previous $700 per year level.

The city pays the utilities on the building and, during the winter, heating costs were running high because of an inaccurate thermostat. To address that problem, the club installed a new digital thermostat and additional insulation to increase efficiency.

City Councilor Sue Jones wasn’t sold on the idea of giving the group a 5-year lease.
She pointed out that the group is the “Wichita” Model Railroad Club and not the “Augusta” Model Railroad Club. She also asked how the club using a city building was a community asset.

“My point is that it is city property,” Jones said. “I just want to be sure there are benefits to the community.”

Gordon McPhail, who represented the club at the meeting, told the council that the group has worked with the Boy Scouts to help them earn badges and offers tours to groups – such as groups of senior citizens.

“We want to meet our responsibilities and obligations,” McPhail said.

Matt Malone also expressed concerns about a 5-year lease because of the potential to have utility costs fluctuate during the term of the lease.

“A five year lease allows us to plan and do major renovations,” said McPhail. “Our costs on materials have skyrocketed so being able to plan expenses helps.”

City Attorney David All advised the council that the lease as presented did include a termination clause that the council could utilize for any reason.

Councilor Ron Reavis made a motion to approve the 5-year lease and Matt Childers seconded the motion.

The measure passed 4-2 with Jones and Malone voting against the motion. Mike Huddleston and Mike Wallace were absent.

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