By Graham Sturgeon, staff writer
THE MORE THAN 110-year old Durand Union Station in the morning sun. (Independent File Photo/BILL CONSTINE)
Negotiations between the Durand City Council and Durand Union Station, Inc. (DUSI) over the lease agreement for the Depot have stagnated recently and the city council took steps during their June 15 meeting to move the process along. The council voted to refer the issue to the city’s negotiating team, comprised of council members Dr. Brian Boggs and Ken McDonough, Mayor Deb Doyle, City Manager Amy Roddy and City Attorney Chuck McKone, and they will expect a recommendation for action to be presented at the council’s July 20 regular meeting. Boggs proposed the vote near the end of the June 15 meeting and he is ready for the whole process to reach its conclusion.
“We have been dealing with this issue for seven years and we are no closer to a resolution than when we began,” Boggs said. “This is a tenant issue. The city has to protect itself in terms of liability and there has been no communication. It is time to look at our options and to find out what our recourse is, both legal and otherwise.”
DUSI Board President Michael Rexin and Director Mary Warner-Stone agree that the two entities need to come to an agreement, but their opinions differ from that of the city in regards to the language of the contract. DUSI does not want to relinquish control of decision making when it comes to the affairs of the Depot, as they believe the DUSI has been “doing fine for 30 years.”
“To have someone come in and dictate what repairs we would have to make and who would make the repairs is unacceptable to us,” Rexin said when reached for comment. “It could potentially bankrupt the Depot. We have been doing fine for 30 years, so why should it change now?”
Warner-Stone would like to dispel the myth that DUSI has had financial troubles, which has led many to speculate as to what would happen if the non-profit organization could not pay its bills. Some believe that the Depot’s many irreplaceable artifacts could potentially be sold to pay DUSI’s debt if the organization ever fell into financial trouble.
“DUSI is in a great position financially,” Warner-Stone said. “Our financial situation has only improved over the last four years. We do not borrow money and we owe nobody money. We are a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and we are sustained by donations, fundraisers and volunteerism. Since I came on as director in 2011, we have actually added one part-time staff position, a museum archivist and two paid interns. We are in no danger of bankruptcy.”
Warner-Stone also spoke directly about the fear that artifacts could be sold to pay DUSI’s debt should it ever fall into financial trouble. “Being a 501(c)3 we are bound by IRS regulations when it comes to the artifacts that we possess,” Warner-Stone said. “We are financially solvent, but if a time ever came where that was not the case, we would not be able to sell the artifacts to just anyone. The IRS dictates that the artifacts would go to ‘a like-minded organization of our choosing,’ so any claims to the contrary are false.”
Warner-Stone also addressed the liability issue that the city has mentioned. “We have over $2 million in liability insurance through Brown & Brown of Michigan,” Warner-Stone said. “And we have paid our part of the liability when situations have arisen. Last year’s wind storm is an example. The outside of the Depot was damaged by the shearing winds that the city experienced in April 2014 and DUSI paid their portion of the deductible in that situation. Liability should not be an issue for the city.”
DUSI said that negotiations have recently been turned over to the two groups’ attorneys and that DUSI will be submitting a proposal to the city “very soon.” They also said that they “would love to work with the city,” but that they “cannot put their assets in jeopardy.” They look forward to putting the issue in the past and say that they would “certainly be willing to sign a reasonable lease.”