By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Durand City Council Chambers were filled nearly to capacity for the council’s Monday, Aug. 3, meeting as many loyal Durand Union Station, Inc. (DUSI) supporters came to hear the council’s ruling on what was supposed to be the deadline for DUSI to submit confirmation of the city’s most recent lease agreement proposal. The council voted 5-2 on July 20 to present DUSI with their “best, final offer,” which also came with one final negotiating session between the two parties. Scheduling difficulties prevented that meeting from happening, so the council decided on Monday to extend the window until Aug. 31.
As was the case in July, several people spoke during the initial public comments section of the meeting, and nearly everyone defended the position of DUSI during their allotted five minutes. Most pleaded for cooperation, while DUSI Director Mary Warner-Stone and DUSI Board member Tim Colton tried to give their side of the relationship’s history after city attorney Charles McKone gave his version in July. DUSI President Mike Rexin then presented Mayor Deb Doyle with DUSI’s counter-offer after spending a few moments clarifying DUSI’s problems with the city’s proposal.
“I’ve asked over 100 non-profit executives about this language, and the response that I got was that not a single one of them would advise their board to sign a contract like this,” Rexin said during the meeting. “One even told me that this is the fastest way to bankruptcy he had ever seen. The city could request up to $3,500 in repairs an unlimited number of times; there is no cap. You know we can’t sign this language. It’s unreasonable, it’s volatile, it’s punitive. We want to work with the city, but this kind of language is something that\ we cannot live with.”
Rexin also asked for the city to honor their offer of a final negotiating session, which the council agreed to later in the meeting. The lease agreement was not on the agenda, but Councilman Ken McDonough brought a motion during the council comments section of the meeting to move the deadline to Aug. 31. The motion passed by a 4-2 vote, with Connie Cobley and Tom VanRiper voting “no.” Those in attendance did not know it yet, but the council would be trimmed to only six members by the end of the evening, as Vicki Fuja’s resignation letter was read at the end of the meeting by Mayor Doyle. The council “regretfully” accepted the resignation and is now seeking a replacement for the Precinct 2 seat, which will expire in Nov. 2016.
VanRiper not only voted “no” on the motion, but he also sympathized with DUSI’s Board of Directors over their concerns with some of the language of the city’s most recent proposal.
“I’m curious as to how much negotiation has actually happened,” VanRiper said. “We realize what DUSI has done for this city and the Depot, but I’m not seeing any negotiations going on and that bothers me. I’m concerned with what is going to happen. I’ve read the lease, and there are parts in there that I would not agree with if I were you. But how do I know which part of the lease you don’t like if you don’t tell me? There should be a cap on the number of repairs we can request, but we need to get together to see how much money you have to invest in repairs and to put together a priority list for those repairs.”
McDonough’s motion also included the option for the city, failing a lease agreement, to conduct a feasibility study and a request for proposals (RFP) after the Aug. 31 deadline. All of the councilmembers voiced their desire for an amicable agreement, but they see the need to cover themselves in the event that new tenants need to be procured. They termed the study and request for proposals a “contingency plan,” which could be used to help DUSI as well, should they continue as tenants.