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In February of 2020, Midland approached the City unhappy with the arrangement they had with Santa Fe Trail Historical Society: 35 cents/ticket sold, capped at $9,000/year. They approached the city asking to purchase the depot from the city. The stated reasoning was a need to have long term stability in property ownership and wishing to remove the hassle of a landlord, who had threatened eviction due to non-payment of rent.
Santa Fe Trail Historical Society was also unhappy with Midland, since they had $6,400 rent outstanding. They agreed to sell Allen Park to the City for $100,000 and relinquish their “lease in perpetuity” on the Depot with the sole intent of resolving the dispute with Midland.
The City reluctantly entered the discussion with a desire to find a solution that would work for all interested parties in order to keep Midland Railway in town, keep Santa Fe Trail Historical Society in the business of preserving historic sites, and maintain the historic depot.
Related Document, including verifiable timeline: Depot Press Release 3.5.2020.
In April of 2018, the City entered into a Trail Easement Agreement with Midland Railway in order to support Midland’s need to fix rails that had suffered damage from flooding and get the trains running again. The Agreement granted the City the right to install a public access trail along the side of the Railway and granted the public access to the trail when built, provided the City would build the trail within 50 years. If a trail were not built, the City would forfeit the easement right. If a trail were built inside 50 years, the City’s right to easement would become irrevocable.
In exchange, the City paid Midland $345,000 in 2018 and an annual utility credit amounting to around $5,000 per year. City staff worked to secure grant funding to finance a trail on the easement, and the money needed to build the trail was awarded in February of 2020.
The City entered negotiations with Midland’s attorney in April of 2020. On May 25, after back and forth discussion between the attorneys, many hours of staff, council, and mayor time spent talking to Mr. Stevens, and hours of meetings, the City attorney set out the terms the negotiation team wanted to offer Midland:
Why does the City want to change the Trail Easement agreement?
In addition to needing to remove Santa Fe Trail Historical Society from the contract, the basic bottom line is the City has done more for Midland Railway in the last two years than any other entity in town. Asking Midland to pay for its own utilities is a small concession.
Isn’t there more to the story?
Yes. All we can tell you are the facts.
Why did negotiations take so long?
City staff and elected officials have spent countless hours communicating with Midland Railway, mainly with Mr. Stevens and his attorney, trying to find a solution to this issue in the middle of a pandemic.
Why doesn’t the city sell the depot to Midland?
The City was deeded the depot for a reason: private entities are not eligible for historic preservation funds. It would be negligent of the city to release a city-owned historic property of this type to a private entity.
Why was Santa Fe allowed to hold the first lease and make money off Midland?
Santa Fe rescued the depot from destruction, restored it, and recruited Midland Railway to move here from Missouri. This is verifiable with official documents available from the City Clerk.
Does the city want to force Midland and the Dinner Train out of business?
No. If we did, we wouldn’t have paid them $345,000 of taxpayer money for the Trail Easement Agreement in 2018 and signed for another $750,000 Community Development Block Grant for them in the fall of 2019.
Was Midland evicted from the Depot?
No. They were threatened with eviction for non-payment of rent but Midland was never served a notice of eviction.
What exactly was the decision made by city council on Tuesday night, June 16th, 2020?
City Council voted to stick to the terms of their offer to Midland from May 25th, 2020, as laid out in “Back to Today” above.
Did Midland make a counter offer?
The city attorney did receive an email from Mr. Stevens at 6:58pm on June 16th, 2020.
Where does the Dinner Train fit in?
Kansas Belle Dinner Train leases the rails from Midland Railway for their runs. We do not know what happens between those two entities, aside from what was stated by the owner of Kansas Belle in open council meeting on June 16th. The City has never had an agreement with the Dinner Train.