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Gainesville to discuss future of baggage car
Council to hear cost of painting car
Gainesville City Council will discuss today what to do with this baggage car next to Engine 209 off Jesse Jewell Parkway. - photo by SARA GUEVARA | The Times

To paint or not to paint.

That might be one question the Gainesville City Council considers today.

While it also will discuss heavy-hitting issues, including what spending requests major city departments (fire, parks and recreation and the Community Service Center) have for the coming fiscal year, the council also will consider the fate of the baggage car in the city’s downtown train display.

The display includes three pieces of train memorabilia: an engine from the Gainesville Midland train era, a caboose and the baggage car.

“The baggage car is the most unsightly of the three units up there,” said David Dockery, the city’s director of Public Works.

Already, city officials have acknowledged the rusty sea-green car needs work. But no one has yet decided whether it’s worth the effort.

Dockery will brief the council today on estimates his department has gathered for repainting the car. The information likely will lead to a conversation on whether to renovate, move or sell the car.

During a retreat in January, Dockery and the council briefly discussed the need to paint the car, which needs work somewhat frequently for an unused piece of city property.

The car was most recently repainted back in 2005 with other renovations to the engine and caboose in the display. In January, Dockery estimated a new paint job would be about $15,000.

The January estimate immediately sparked a discussion about future options for the car. Mayor Danny Dunagan said he didn’t think the city should spend that kind of money.

Councilwoman Ruth Bruner asked why the city had to have the car. And at some point, someone joked about chopping the car up and selling the salvaged metal.

The baggage car, a gift from the arts council, has been on the site since 1981.

Dockery won’t make any suggestions to the council at today’s 9 a.m. work session about what the city should do, only present the financial options and seek its direction.

The Public Works director declined to go into detail on those estimates Wednesday, noting a desire to brief the council first.

While it’s unclear what the new estimates are for painting the baggage car, when reached this week, the mayor repeated the opinion he had in January that the city should not spend $15,000 on the car.

It’s also unclear what other options there might be. Back in January, Councilman Robert “Bob” Hamrick suggested asking if any other agencies, like the Northeast Georgia History Center, would want to take the old car and display it as a piece of the city’s railroad history.

Dockery said this week there have not yet been any takers on the offer.