RCDA votes to ‘close out’ Railroad Museum grant

The Randolph County Development Authority is no longer on board with having its name attached to a grant intended to restore a turntable in the railyard on behalf of the West Virginia Railroad Museum.

At its regular meeting Thursday, the RCDA voted unanimously to authorize Executive Director Robbie Morris to work with the West Virginia Department of Highways – the grantor – to “close out” the $125,000 grant, at the recommendation of RCDA President Bonnie Serrett and RCDA project committee chair Mark Doak.

Doak provided a brief history of the events that have transpired surrounding the grant prior to the Development Authority’s vote. In March 2009, with the RCDA’s help, the Railroad Museum obtained the grant to rehabilitate the turntable, he said.

“Even though the grant was obtained for use by the West Virginia Railroad Museum, we are the lead agency and the responsible agency for that grant,” Doak said. “Things have stalled at various times in an attempt to get the turntable working.”

Doak said the Railroad Museum and RCDA learned that it would take “several thousand dollars” – significantly more money than the grant provided – to stabilize the turntable within a pit that had been dug for it by J.F. Allen Co.

“We’ve asked for direction from the museum and haven’t received any,” Doak said. “We finally contacted them to let them know we needed an answer by April 1 and we have not heard back from them.

“It’s been over four years at this point in time,” he added, “and at the end of the day, we’re responsible for that grant.”

Serrett said the agency’s decision should be no surprise to the operators of the railroad museum.

“We did officially notify them in writing,” Serrett commented after the motion passed. “They did know this was going on and had ample opportunity to participate in these discussions, and their answer has been they have no plan at this time, they’re still working on it.”

Following the meeting, Doak said part of the grant money had already been spent – to obtain the turntable and move it into the railyard. He said he wasn’t sure how the RCDA would go about settling the matter with the DOH.

“Those details have to be worked out with the DOH,” he said.

Doak described the turntable as “an eyesore.”

“Eventually somebody’s going to have to do something with it,” he added.

Julia Elbon, president of the Railroad Museum, said Thursday that the museum has been contemplating five options for the future of the turntable.

“Three of those did not materialize, one being the Beverly train station stop,” Elbon said. “Other sites did not materialize. We have offered to store the turntable until it can be used, but that has been unacceptable to the state of West Virginia.”

“We appreciate the support of the Development Authority, and we want this to come to some happy ending,” Elbon said.

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