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Lula officials OK deal to take over train depot
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Lula City Council voted Monday on a deal to take possession of the train depot in downtown from the Lula Area Betterment Association. In exchange for the deed to the depot, grounds, equipment and contents, city officials agreed to pay LABA $5,000 and up to $4,000 for the organization’s past and present attorney fees. - photo by Carlos Galarza

The city of Lula will soon be taking possession of the train depot property that has been in the hands of a civic organization for more than 20 years.

In a special called meeting Monday, Lula City Council accepted a counter-offer from the Lula Area Betterment Association to get the property at 5911 Wall St. under a quick-claim deed.

In exchange for the deed to the depot, grounds, equipment and contents, city officials agreed to pay LABA $5,000 and up to $4,000 for the organization’s past and present attorney fees.

The terms are more favorable than a previous agreement in which the city would have given a down payment of $2,500 and up to $25,000, if LABA could provide proof of ownership. Three weeks ago, city officials threatened to walk away from that agreement if LABA could not provide clear title within a reasonable amount of time.

Instead, LABA made its counter-offer of giving the city a quick-claim deed, in which LABA makes no guarantee of clear title to the city.

Mayor Milton Turner said LABA did not want to take on the legal challenge that the city is willing to take on to resolve title issues.

“The city will take on all the legal work of getting the title cleared up,” Turner said. “It will take some time. It won’t happen overnight. We understand it’s a small risk for the city to take, but I think the people in the community are ready for us to take that risk, take on the building and do some improvements on the property.”

Councilman Garnett Smith said it was an easy decision for council. He said when negotiations began some 14 months ago, LABA wanted $60,000 for the property.

“It’s time for us to move ahead with this,” Smith said.

A document circulated by the city shows that the offer sheet dated Aug. 3 was signed by LABA President Mere Barbee and Bobbie Robinson, the organization’s treasurer.

The LABA officials agreed to provide the city with a minimum of five years of bank records, documents showing utility payments over a period of at least 10 years, rental history over at least seven years, property insurance records for at least 10 years and testimony that supports the organization’s ownership of the property.

Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said the city plans to invest approximately $80,000 over a 2-year period to renovate the facility.

City officials say little has been done to the building since it was built in the mid-1990s.

Turner said the city would honor scheduled rentals at the train depot through December.

The depot is home of the city’s popular Railroad Days festival, which has been held in the spring for more than 40 years.

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