From:   The Calendonian-Record   “Serving Northern Vermont and New Hampshire     St. Johnsbury, VT



Town Closer To Refurbishing Old Railroad Station




Monday May 20, 2002



LISBON NH - Lisbon town officials have already received two out of three grants that will help them move closer to buying the town's old railroad station.


The property has been trumpeted as a potential boon to the town's Main Street, but also tagged as "environmentally questionable."


The third grant is the biggest and would essentially give the selectmen the green light to buy the property that has been used as a truck garage for at least 30 years.


If the money comes through, the town will buy the now-abandoned building and convert it to a number of uses. So far, some ideas include a welcome center for buses and trail users, a transportation museum, and a home for the town's historical society and art council.


Selectmen are hoping to secure up to $180,000 from different state programs that will allow them to buy, clean and renovate the building and its surrounding property. Because of its former use as a garage for dump trucks, the effort to clean the area could be substantial - and some people in town are not convinced it is worth the money.


So far, the town has received $40,000 between grants from the Bureau of Trails and Department of Resources and Economic Development. In June the board will find out whether it will receive $136,000 from an enhancement grant from the state.


Proponents of the refurbishing plans believe that with this money, the town can restore a once-proud town building that will complement what many hope to be a resurgence in the Main Street area.


"I think it fits with what we're trying to do in downtown," said Selectman Jerry Hite. "I believe it could be a draw to the town and it's in our best interest to clean this up."


Before the town can open the doors of the station, however, a major effort will have to be made to clean up the site. Not only is the actual building in need of structural and aesthetic touch-ups, but many believe the environment around it could be contaminated with oils and other materials found in a truck garage.


Steve Colby, Lisbon resident and former Fleet Bank vice president, was involved with the transactions between his bank and the owners. At one point, Fleet Bank held the mortgage on the property but did not foreclose because of questions regarding environmental hazards.


"We did an environmental audit and we determined we did not want to own it," Colby said. "To the best of my knowledge there has been no environmental clean up. It's kind of interesting the town is willing to spend money for an environmentally questionable property."


Although Colby could not divulge confidential financial bank information about the property, he did say the former owner, Lyle McBurney, did not pay his taxes on the property and that the amount that was owed in taxes was worth more than the building.


Today, the property is owned by Jerome Barber from whom the town would buy the property for $37,000, according to town administrator Walter Johnson. In addition to the initial cost of buying and restoring the building, Johnson believes the long-term expense in maintaining the building would be minimal to the town's taxpayers.


"At this point I don't see any need to ask the taxpayers to participate anymore except in terms of long-term maintenance," Johnson said. "We see this as a historical investment to the town, to help attract people to downtown and to preserve part of historic Lisbon. So there is some other value there that is being consider with this whole package."


If the money from the enhancement grant does not come through, the town will kick into fund-raising mode to try and secure the building through other means. Although there may be little asked of taxpayers, not everyone believes this is the right way to spend money.


"I don't agree with it but I voted for it," said Selectman Wallie Berry. "People think they'll jump-start the town with the railroad station. First thing they need to do is get people shopping in town. I think we need to concentrate on everything we have before we branch off."