Bor­ough train sta­tion money side­tracked

Souderton Independent - - FRONT PAGE - By Bob Keeler

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.”

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