Howard Co. might buy rail station Purchase depends on matching funds for state grant

April 02, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

*TC Howard County and an Ellicott City improvement group are scrambling to come up with matching funds for a $160,000 award, which could result in the purchase of the B&O Railroad Station Museum.

Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker says he wants to buy the 162-year-old train station-turned-museum because the county has already spent $250,000 to $275,000 in repairs on it. The county leases the museum from CSX Transportation Inc. for $1 a month.

"I'm hesitant to put county dollars in a building that the county doesn't own," Mr. Ecker said. "We think CSX should give us the building."

The museum is scheduled for $250,000 in additional work -- including remodeling the first floor for a conference room and director's office, and restoring the original rotation platform for turning locomotives.

The expected purchase price for the station is about $90,000.

The award is issued by the state Transportation Department's ++ Enhancement Program, which supplies federal and state money to projects that add community, environmental, scenic or historical value to a transportation project or project area. It will be given to the county and the nonprofit Ellicott City Restoration Foundation, a 15-year-old community improvement group.

The museum project is one of several vying for a piece of the award and its matching funds.

State and county officials are negotiating over which to choose. Award recipients must pay half of each project on the list. Projects discussed so far include upgrading the Patapsco River bridge linking Ellicott City to Oella, and improving sidewalks along Oella Avenue, said C. Edward Walter, the county's chief traffic engineer.

He said the county all along expected the state would pay the entire cost of improvements to the Patapsco River bridge, which is owned by the state. Those repairs are estimated at $160,000 and would include installing brick pavement and low-level lights, and replacing the railing.

The county also had set aside only $25,000 toward the planned purchase of the museum. If award money is used for that, the county could instead pay $45,000.

"It was not planned in the capital improvement process," Mr. Walter said. "It throws the projects into a little turmoil," he said.

"I know it's going to happen," said William Fulton, president of the Ellicott City Restoration Foundation. "It's just a question of making it work."

The County Council would have to approve any additional capital improvement funds, Mr. Walter said. Matching funds must be secured by July 1, 1994, but the County Council will adopt the capital and operating budget before June 1.

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