Fiehrer said she was concerned the prices for a renovation after the building is moved “could be cost-prohibitive.”
“The question in front of council is: Does council wish to save the depot for a cost of $600,000?” Smith told council. “If the answer is no, the final vote would take place on May 26, and council can simply just vote no, and then we’re done with the property and then CSX would just commence with their demolition.”
If council votes to save the building, Hamilton would sign an agreement with a building-moving company from Zanesville.
In June the city would design a new foundation, building it over the summer and moving the station around October, Smith said.
If the city decides to save the station, the Hamilton Community Foundation has agreed to launch capital campaigns to help move it, and later to improve the building at its new location, Smith said.
Before the vote happens, Smith told Fiehrer he would ask the railroad company for an additional six months, after she expressed discomfort at how quickly the city would have to move the station, the unknown costs of restoring the building.
City leaders hope it can be converted into an Amtrak station if the passenger railroad would enhance its Cincinnati-to-Indianapolis-to-Chicago service and add stops in cities like Hamilton and Oxford.
Hamilton and Middletown officials also hope for a station on a Cincinnati-to-Columbus-to-Cleveland route. Other possibilities mentioned for the station were offices, a restaurant/bar, city welcome center and farmers’ market.
Mayor Pat Moeller, who is perhaps the station’s leading advocate, said, “This building is four bricks thick, if I’m not mistaken, which kind of tells you how it lasted the last 170 years to be able to see (presidents) Lincoln, Truman, Eisenhower, soldiers and sailors leaving the city for various wars, coming home from various wars.”
If no donations or grants were received, the $600,000 would come entirely from city government, including $120,000 from the city’s general fund. City officials on Thursday did not identify which other city funds would be used for the expense.
“Are these people experienced enough that they know when they set it back down, it’s going to be in the same condition it was when they moved it?” Fiehrer asked. “Whose liability or responsibility is that?”
Hamilton Director of Engineering Rich Engle said Dingey Movers, in business since 1947, are “very confident they can move the structure.”
“They have done major moves like this before,” Engle said, and the building would travel 3 miles per hour. A small building that connects the two station buildings would not be moved, Engle said.
Council Member Susan Vaugh asked, “Is there an option of moving one part and not the other? Saving the oldest part?”
Engle said the single-story building is the older part, and the two-story one would have to either be moved or demolished so the older structure could be moved.
Moeller said Historic Hamilton has a committee set up on the matter and CHAPS (Citizens for Historic and Preservation Services of Butler County) is working to add the property to the National Register of Historic Places.
Fiehrer said it would be nice if CSX would give the city more time, now the Hamilton “finally” is taking the issue seriously. Council Member Michael Ryan voiced concerns about damage to the buildings during a move.
Smith said CSX had wanted the city to move it this year, and gave the extension through March, but he would request an additional six months.
Officials hope the building could qualify for state and federal tax credits for a developer willing to restore it.
“If there’s a decision to keep it, it’ll be there for future generations,” Moeller said. “If there’s a decision not to, and it’s well-thought-out and voted on, that’s a decision we all have to make.”
Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller and others want to save the historic CSX station and move it elsewhere, but he is concerned the railroad is preparing to tear it down. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF