Borough train station money sidetracked
In 2009 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development gave its approval to a $500,000 grant for the planned restoration of the Souderton train station.
That agreement, though, runs out at the end of this year.
“What we’ll try to do is get an extension if we can,” Borough Manager Mike Coll said at Souderton Borough Council’s Aug. 20 administrative work session, “but the reality is we may be losing that federal money.”
The plan is to restore the train station and accompanying weigh sta- tion and freight buildings to their historic time periods and to improve and expand the parking areas around the buildings on West Broad and Front streets. The borough is also hoping to take over the lease for the buildings, which are owned by SEPTA, and sublease the buildings to businesses, similar to what was done in Telford where Shekala’s boutique and Marvelous Mealz are in the former train station and freight station buildings. In Souderton, The Local restaurant plans to remain at the train station.
Even if the HUD grant isn’t extended, the borough is hoping to see the plans completed, Coll said.
“The project isn’t necessarily dead, but we may need to restructure and downsize it,” he said.
The HUD grant had been planned to provide part of the matching funds to a later approved $1 million Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant. The value of the land can also be counted into the matching funds, as was done previously in Souderton when the Indian Valley Boys & Girls Club was built, Coll said.
The borough is expecting to set up a 30-year lease with SEPTA.
“That lease, by itself, counts as $500,000” for the matching fund calculations, Coll said.
That’s based on the value of the property, not the amount of the lease payments. Similar to Telford, Coll said, Souderton was hoping to lease from SEPTA for $1 per year, but SEPTA is now asking to also get a portion of the rent received when Souderton sublets the buildings.
One of the biggest obstacles to starting the work is that even if the grants are received, the borough must first pay for the work, then get reimbursed from the grants, Coll said.
“At this juncture, I don’t know what to tell you except we may be losing some grant money, but we have no reserves to move it forward
anyway,” Coll said.
“The real issue is it’s a big project and it’s going to take cash reserves,” he said. “We just don’t have WKH rHsHrvHs WR flRDW.”
The grants also are for construction costs and do not cover the bill for architectural and engineering fees.
In another economic development- and revitalization-related matter at the meeting, SoudertonTelford Main Streets board members gave an update on the program and said decisions have to be made about its future.
With decreased funding available, the program this year cut back from having a full-time manager to part-time, which also decreases the grant money and other assistance from the state that the local program is eligible to receive.
The Pennsylvania Downtown Center, which oversees Main Streets, is looking for answers on whether the local group is planning to continue and, if so, at what level, Scott Hillegass, Souderton-Telford Main Streets board chairman, said.
Board Secretary Barry Stoltzfus said he expects the local group to remain in some fashion, but it’s yet to be determined what that will be.
“I don’t know that we’re in a position where we will go away. It’s just a question of whether we are a vibrant organization doing good things, or just a shell,” Stoltzfus said.
Telford cut its contribution to Main Streets to $15,000 this year and Souderton initially budgeted $40,000, similar to previous years, but then said it would have to reconsider and has so far made $30,000 in payments to the program. In previous years, Souderton had contributed 60 percent of the money received from the boroughs and Telford 40 percent.
In order to meet its current budget, Hillegass said, the organization needs about $100,000 per year.
Only a few businesses contribute monetarily to the organization, board members said in response to a question from Mayor John Reynolds, a former Main Streets chairman.
Reynolds said it has been an ongoing concern that Main Streets has not developed new sources of funding itself.
Main Streets tried to fo- cus on meeting its mission, rather than fundraising, Jeff Gross, past chairman, said, but, just as many othHr nRnSrRfiW RrJDnLzDWLRns have found, it’s also necessary to do the fundraising.
“If you’re not spending part of your time fundraising,” Gross said, “you just won’t survive.”