Lula city officials took the first step this week toward renovating the historic train depot by awarding a contract to a Marietta firm that will provide design and engineering services.
The move keeps the city on schedule to begin major improvements at the facility in the first quarter of 2018.
Rindt-McDuff, which also operates a satellite office in Gainesville, submitted a low bid of $10,315, which the Lula City Council unanimously accepted at its regular meeting Monday. The council also considered a second bid of $17,000 from Garland Reynolds Architects in Gainesville.
At the insistence of the council, City Manager Dennis Bergin waited two months for a third bid that never came.
“If you don’t think the economy is good,” Bergin cracked, implying that companies are tied up on other projects.
City officials entered into an agreement to take control of the train depot — a rental venue used for weddings, events and activities — from the Lula Area Betterment Association in August. The volunteers who for many years operated the depot, which is home to the city’s popular and decades-old Railroad Days Festival, no longer could keep up the facility, according to LABA leader Mere Barbee.
The city and LABA negotiated for more than a year before working out an arrangement for the organization to deed over the facility. The city agreed to pay LABA $5,000 for equipment the group left behind, and $4,000 for legal bills. Barbee called the transaction a gift to the city because she said the property and land is valued at $180,000.
Bergin said services to be provided by Rindt-McDuff would include creating a master plan, providing conceptual renderings and designs.
City officials say they plan to invest $150,000 over a two-year period to complete the upgrades to the train depot.