Council to consider depot lease; Rec district prepared to lease train station to prevent shutdown
The future of Truckee’s historic downtown train depot could be back on track.
In the wake of Nevada County’s recent decision to close the facility, both the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District and Town of Truckee have stepped forward to offer assistance. At last week’s rec district meeting, the board said it is willing to sign a $1 a year lease with the county to manage the depot and prevent the Commercial Row building from closing. In addition, town council will consider the issue during its meeting tonight. Town manager Steve Wright has recommended the council pursue the leasing proposal the county has offered to the rec district.
“It’s not really what our business is,” said Steve Randall, recreation district general manager. “However, if this is what it takes (to keep the depot open), we’ll do it – but not at a deficit.”
The Nevada County Supervisors several weeks ago voted 4-1 to shut down the depot and issue eviction notices to building tenants to alleviate budget problems, including what the county claimed was an annual $10,000 depot operating deficit.
A year ago, Nevada County and Truckee were within 24 hours of transferring ownership to the town when filing of a property tax lawsuit nixed the deal, according to county Community Services Director Dennis Cassella. Angered by the town’s move to recoup up to $500,000 in annual tax revenue, the board altered the depot agreement to include a contingency provision – one stipulating that should the town prevail in its lawsuit, the county receives a $650,000 credit toward money owed to the town. The town says the $650,000 is an arbitrary value the county attributes to the depot facility.
The tax revenue discrepancy is retroactive and the town seeks $500,000 for each year since Truckee’s 1993 incorporation.
Hoping to prompt action by Truckee officials, the supervisors decided to cut their losses and issue 90-day eviction notices to depot tenants, which include a travel agency, Greyhound and Amtrak ticket outlets and the chamber’s visitors center. The depot also provides the downtown commercial center with public bathrooms.
With depot negotiations between the county and town stalled, the county recently approached the rec district with the offer to lease the building. On Monday, officials from the chamber, rec district, town and downtown merchants association met to discuss the depot.
Randall said the rec district would need the financial support of the other groups to eliminate operating shortfalls, which town officials estimate closer to $3,800-$4,700 annually – an amount that Wright thought could be reduced or eliminated through a collaborative effort of the town, merchants, chamber and rec district.
“The issue ought to be developing a long-term plan for that facility,” including capital expenses, Wright said. “The county is sending a clear message that long term they’re not going to be in that business.”
In a memo to the council, Wright said both Cassella and Nevada County Administrator David Brennan indicated the supervisors would be willing to consider a lease agreement with the town. The depot is scheduled to be discussed at the supervisors’ meeting next Tuesday.
Cassella said the county made some capital improvements about 18 months ago, most on the recommendation of the town during its negotiations to transfer ownership.
“I don’t think the board (of supervisors) is going to be inclined to do anything further,” Cassella said.
Although Cassella has the authority to negotiate leases under $5,000, he will defer to the supervisors concerning a possible request from the town to lease the depot.
“That is a political decision the board would have to make, not my decision.”
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