By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
The Durand City Council voted during their Monday, July 20, meeting to present Durand Union Station, Inc. (DUSI) with a lease proposal, which was termed by Councilman Dr. Brian Boggs as “the city’s final best offer.” DUSI is to submit written approval to the city by the Aug. 3 city council meeting and the city granted them one negotiating session between the two parties’ negotiating teams before that date. The council passed the motion by a 5-1 margin, with Councilmember Connie Cobley the lone dissenter.
City Attorney Charles McKone presented the contract to the council during the department reports section of the meeting in front of a packed house, as many citizens attended to hear news of the Depot lease agreement. The proposed lease agreement was formulated by the city’s negotiating team, which consists of Mayor Deb Doyle, City Manager Amy Roddy plus council members Ken McDonough and Dr. Boggs. The contingent of loyal railroaders who showed up expecting to hear news on the Depot lease agreement were treated to a history lesson from City Attorney Charles McKone, as he laid out the city’s position on the issue during his time to speak.
He pointed out that DUSI was created as “an arm” of the city, and he asserted that the city needs to regain some semblance of control of “their most valuable asset.” McKone gave a lengthy history of the relationship between the two parties, which led into his description of the negotiations over a lease agreement that have dragged on since 2009. He also addressed the city’s need for a binding agreement with DUSI, citing repeated recommendations of the city’s auditors as one of the motives, along with the city’s need to be involved in the decision-making process of DUSI.
“Everyone is concerned about the building’s viability,” McKone said. “We must get back to where the city has some say in what goes on at the Depot. They rent the building to DUSI for $1 a year, so they are not trying to profit in the deal. If they were, they would charge DUSI $5,000 a month and let them do whatever they wanted. The city should not be a stranger in their own home.”
The city also contends that their three DUSI Board of Director seats were stripped in 2012, and they are asking that those be restored. DUSI Director Mary Warner-Stone, who attended the meeting, remembers the situation differently however, saying that the council had “quit showing up” in 2010. She informed The Independent that DUSI’s bylaws, which were created in 1985 while Durand City Councilman Jack Davis was a part of DUSI’s Board of Directors, allow for two councilmembers (specifically the city manager and mayor) to be a part of the board.
The DUSI Board of Directors met on Tuesday to discuss the proposed lease agreement, and Director Warner-Stone said that the group had “some good conversation and generated plenty of good ideas.” DUSI does intend to take the city council up on their offer of one last negotiating session, but a date has not yet been set for that meeting. DUSI’s negotiating team consists of Warner-Stone, DUSI President Michael Rexin plus board members Dan Brooks and Dave Harrell.
“DUSI is celebrating their 30th anniversary this year because of the work that DUSI and the city have done together,” Warner-Stone said. “The complete history of this relationship needs to be respected. Too many people have contributed to the legacy of this building for it all to fall apart now. We are an independent and self-sufficient organization, which is exactly what the city intended back in 1985.”
Dr. Boggs did not explicitly state that DUSI would be removed as a tenant if they fail to approve this proposal, but that is the impression that Warner-Stone took from the meeting. This long, and sometimes stagnant process is reaching its conclusion, so expect developments in the near future.