Brooks Preservation Society seeks 25 year lease with cityLease would allow BPS to operate trains on rail corridor from City Point Station to Waldo town line
Belfast — Brooks Preservation Society is seeking a 25 year lease from the city to operate trains on the stretch of rail owned by Belfast that extends from City Point to the Waldo town line.
Joe Feero, executive director of Brooks Preservation Society, spoke to councilors Tuesday, Sept. 17, as to why he felt the organization should be granted a long-term lease of at least 25 years.
Feero said the primary driver for the long-term lease is that the organization needs to know it can access the city owned rail from City Point Station to the Waldo town line in order to generate revenue.
The organization bought City Point Station for a total purchase price of $240,000, after principal and interest is paid, Feero told councilors. In addition, Brooks Preservation Society is considering investing up to $310,00 over a period of 10 years to make their operations “the best that they can be,” he said.
As an example of some of the improvements the organization would like to make, Feero said it is considering constructing a building to store locomotives and coaches at a cost of about $100,000. The organization would also seek to update track at a cost of about $100,000.
Feero said the organization has begun restoring the Brooks Station by replacing the roof and foundation at a cost of $24,000.
Because Brooks is looking to invest a total of about $550,000 over a period of 15 years between the mortgage on City Point Station and improvements to their operations, Feero said the organization needs time to realize a return on their investment.
He estimated it would take at least 10 years before Brooks Preservation Society realizes any return on their investment. For that reason, he said a lease that is only five years long could jeopardize the organization's ability to generate revenue.
“A short term lease potentially places BPS in a position where the city can choose not to renew the lease, thus inadvertently placing BPS in a position to default on the mortgage,” Feero wrote in a letter to City Manager Joseph Slocum.
The city and Brooks Preservation Society are considering entering into an agreement that allows the city to acquire easements at City Point Station to construct restroom facilities and parking as part of the city's plans to construct a rail trail that extends from Penobscot McCrum to City Point Station.
The terms of that agreement contain language stating that the city can step in and pay off the mortgage and acquire City Point Station property if Brooks defaults.
Concluding his comments on why he felt Brooks Preservation Society needs a 25-year lease, Feero said he believed any concerns councilors had about a long-term agreement could be mitigated through language in the lease.
Councilor Nancy Hamilton agreed and said she felt Feero's concerns were valid. She then suggested that Feero and Slocum work together to draft language for a 25-year lease that would work for both parties and be contingent upon the continued operation of the rail line.
Slocum supported Hamilton's suggestion and noted Brooks Preservation Society needs assurances it will be able to operate on the rail from City Point out to the Waldo town line in order to generate revenue.
Councilor Mike Hurley said a 25-year lease makes him “nervous” but he did not have enough of a reason to say no to Feero and Slocum working out an agreement.
“Twenty-five years is an amazingly long period of time,” Hurley commented before councilors voted to allow Slocum to work with Feero to draft a lease agreement.
Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.
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