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Residents question why Joplin hasn't used grant money for train - KOAM TV 7

Residents question why Joplin hasn't used grant money for train depot renovations

Updated:
An online publication that said grant money had been awarded for depot renovations An online publication that said grant money had been awarded for depot renovations
Joplin, MO -

Some people want answers to why the City of Joplin hasn't spent grant money to renovate a historic train depot.  Joplin's Union Depot was built in the early 1900's, but has been vacant for some time now.  Some are wondering why the city hasn't done more to revitalize the building into shops or restaurants.

But city officials say contrary to growing rumors, there are no public funds for the project.

"An architectural masterpiece on Route 66 next to a restored vibrant downtown Main Street historic district, yet is abandoned."  That statement is from a Facebook group called "Save Union Depot - Joplin, Missouri."

"About three thousand people are interested, and I know we have a big historic community that's also interested," says Kristine Gustafson, a Joplin resident.

Gustafson is part of this Facebook group.

"A lot of places are doing things with old depot stations," says Gustafson.

Joplin City Councilman Bill Scearce says Gustafson isn't the first to try to save the building.

"It started in the '80's.  I was on the city council, the state gave a lady 150 thousand dollars to work on the depot," says Scearce.

But according to Scearce, the lady wasn't able to keep her end of a deal with the state, and ever since that time the State of Missouri has owned the old depot building.

"I read on, I believe it was the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce page online, that there was a five point four million dollar grant granted for this project, and I wanted to know what happened," says Gustafson.

Councilman Scearce, though, says the grant was only a proposal from former City Manager Mark Rohr.  The federal community development grant funds were never approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"There are a lot of requirements by HUD, but one of the requirements is that it must serve 50 percent low to moderate income," says Scearce.

The city has paid $25,000 in years past for an architect to draw up renovations for the depot.  But according to Scearce, engineers say the building is in need of so many repairs, the structural integrity of the building may not be worth any renovations.

"That the cost of bringing it up to a standard would be so great, that you could never make it a viable operation.  It comes real hard to save it," says Scearce.

And since the city doesn't own the building, it appears the depot will not remain as is, but continue to deteriorate.

"It could be beautiful.  It could be cleaned up.  It could be a community project, too.  I'm sure people out there would come out and help," says Gustafson.

Renovating the Union Depot was also recently talked about by city council, when deciding how to spend tornado relief funds from the federal and state levels.  But no money was given to revitalizing the depot, since city officials say projects had to be in areas that were directly affected by the Joplin tornado.

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