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Letter to the Editor

 

Mary Warner-Stone, Director of DUSI

9:25 am

Editor, The Independent:

I am writing about the Depot Lease Agreement. DUSI’s Board of Directors regular monthly meeting was Tuesday, July 21. Board members have extensively reviewed the lease and there is an uncanny amount of similarities in this lease to other leases presented by the city. In reality, every lease the city has offered DUSI has been stronger and more restrictive than the previous proposal.

When a negotiation takes place, one party presents a direction in hopes that the other side will move closer to them. Then language is handed back with the hope that the other party will move in a closer direction to them. There hasn’t been much movement toward any kind of language that DUSI has proposed since the negotiating teams began meeting. I have sent an email to the city representatives requesting a meeting with the city’s negotiating team. There are still things that can be worked on, and it was expressed by the council that their negotiating committee is “open” to meeting with us one last time.

Somehow, we have to get past the language that allows the city to order us, on an unlimited basis, to fund any update, repair or renovation that the city chooses. If it is under $3,500, there is no discussion. The language does not provide for an annual cap on these costs, so the city could conceivably identify as many items as they want, as often as they want. This language holds DUSI hostage and makes it absolutely impossible to have an annual budget (again, because there is no limit on renovations the city can insist we pay for).

We would prefer to annually meet with the city to jointly agree on a reasonable project list and then work with them to write grants and hold fundraisers that will generate the money needed to complete the projects. Dictatorship and strong-arming vs. cooperation and collaboration. We challenge the city to the latter. It is such a better path for this community for the city to choose the former.

There was a lot of history brought up during Monday’s City Council meeting, but manypoints not beneficial to the city were left out of the colorful story provided by the city attorney.

As a matter of fact, in the early days of the nonprofit, it was moving forward to turn the building over to DUSI. It was the intent from the start to have DUSI be an independent, self-sufficient nonprofit for the purpose of preserving and maintaining the Depot. I have letters from city officials to then-DUSI management outlining the steps necessary for this transfer to take place. The only thing that stood in the way of both DUSI and the city was Grand Trunk Western. At the time, Grand Trunk was concerned that DUSI was such a young nonprofit, and that there was not enough history with the organization showing that they could maintain the building.

DUSI was in its infancy at the time, so without the Grand Trunk’s blessing, the only choice was for DUSI and the city to move forward, continuing to restore the building, which they did. Over the years, the city and DUSI have worked together on many grants to secure and restore the building. The most recent being the M-Dot grant that was initiated by Norma Ward for the new parking lot. DUSI was awarded the grant, which was later transferred to the city for construction. The city invested capital in addition to the grant funds to complete the project as it is today. The parking lot is a significant improvement to the city’s property and their contributions are very much appreciated, as many visitors use the extra spaces that are now available. In collaboration with the city’s investment, DUSI mows the lawn and shares snow plowing expenses with Amtrak.

Our community is passionate about the Depot, there is no doubt about that. With any history, there are always many sides to the story and many interpretations based on personal perspective. It is important that we respect the complete story and understand that there is room for everyone’s contribution, and that each individual has left their legacy in the story of Durand Union Station. This negotiation process is yet another chapter in the history of Durand. I hope it is a chapter that brings the community together for the best interests of the Depot, as well as the community.

Mary Warner-Stone, Director of DUSI

Mary Warner-Stone, Director of DUSI was last modified: July 29th, 2015 by Karen Elford