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ABOUT TOWN: Train Station in Stoughton, But is it Ours?

Welcome to "About Town with Mark Snyder," a column that will keep you up to the minute with what's what, who's who and what's going on around town. If you see or hear something we could use here, let us know by sending an e-mail to pmpco@aol.com.

WHO WANTS A TRAIN STATION? An open house and public meeting was held on Monday, July 16 at the Stoughton Train Station, which has been closed for several years. The MBTA had , until a request from State Senator Brian A. Joyce and State Representatives Bill Galvin and Lou Kafka, had them remove it from listing sites. 

Joyce has included funding towards the purchase and/or refurbishment of the train station in a Senate Transportation Bill, and Kafka and Galvin have done the same in the House Transportation Bill. 

They are hoping to get Stoughton the railroad station for as small an amount as possible. It is considered to be a key piece of the puzzle in any efforts at downtown revitalization. 

But, the cost of . The roof needs repairs, the bathrooms are not functional, and there's mold on some of the walls. Still, overall, it is really a beautiful place inside, with wood paneled walls and ceiling (take a look at pictures of the station in the media gallery).

The station was built in 1888 (it's on the ) and was renovated in 1988 at the cost of $1 million, thanks to funding from a foundation.  

Mark Boyle, Assistant GM for Development for the MBTA credited the late  for fighting hard to keep the station open. 

Boyle said he discussed with former Town Manager Francis T. Crimmins, Jr. the possibility of the town either buying the building or leasing it from the T. He said that Crimmins rejected both ideas. That is why the MBTA put the station up for sale. 

Interim Town Manager Joseph P. Feaster, Jr. said that he had no idea about the sale until other saw the ads for it that brought it to his attention.

Selectmen John Anzivino and John Stagnone both told About Town that the only thing that came before the Board was a lease agreement, that was tilted against the town, and rejected. 

"We never saw anything about a potential sale," said Anzivino. "I don't recall Frank ever discussing negotiations for a sale," added Stagnone. 

I actually asked Boyle point blank about it, and he said that Crimmins rejected a sale and lease.  

Crimmins, who now has a private practice law firm specializing in the elderly, told About Town, "I first got involved with the T in 2010, going into 2011. There was a sign posted that it was for sale or lease by the TRA. I approached the TRA at that time. I spoke with Fran Decoste of TRA, and tried to get an article in the Town Meeting Warrant of 2011 regarding the rail station. I thought the town should try to control it. I tried to get the CPA committee to fund it, and I approached FinCom. Neither were supportive. I thought it was a great piece of property to control. But, that was for a lease. The terms weren't great terms, and there didn't seem much interest in the Board to negotiate it." 

Crimmins continued, "Around early 2012, when we weren't interested in their lease, they said they'd put it out for sale or lease again. The Chairman of the Board [Stagnone] asked me to contact them to see if they'd hold off on those plans and come back to the town with a proposal. They were receptive, but the town had held them up the year before and they wanted a time frame. I contacted the T and before I left, I told them I was leaving, and I contacted Boyle and told him the contact person was Brian Riley of Kopelman and Paige [Town Counsel]. By March 31, I had nothing before the Board. They had not come up with a price yet."

"I can tell you that the Town certainly was warned that the building would be going on sale. In 2011, we were talking about the downtown revitalization, and I thought it might be a good property for the town to explore its options on. We had a local realtor tell us what a fair amount would be for rent, or for purchase. We had a local builder and our engineer look at what the costs might be to renovate it. With the South Coast rail, the T wanted the option to take back the property, wanted a big rent for it, and included very little parking. When I left, those negotiations were still on the table," Crimmins said.  

The train station's footprint is 6,100 square feet, but the building offers only 2,600 square feet of usable space for retail or office. There is a dirt floor basement that tends to get wet, and a staircase that leads to the clock tower. 

It's really a very important piece of Stoughton's history. We SHOULD buy it, if the price is right, and State or Federal money can be used toward the purchase. We could use Community Preservation Act money to renovate the building, but then the town would have to abide by strict historic rules in terms of how things are renovated and possible future use of the building. 

I think it would make an amazing restaurant. A train station in Newton was turned into a restaurant, according to Boyle.

The building overall was in surprisingly decent shape, although it did set off my asthma (I'm allergic to mold and mildew).  

There were many familiar faces who came for the tour of the facility, which is usually padlocked.

Faces In The Crowd included Selectmen John Anzivino and Cynthia Walsh, Interim Town Manager Joseph P. Feaster, Jr., Terry Schneider and Realtor Fred Yaitanes of the Stoughton Chamber of Commerce; Town Planner Noreen O'Toole, Planning Board Chairman Joe Scardino, Building Inspector Tom McGrath, Assessor Joseph Gibbons, Buildings Superintendent Bob Grover, School Committee Chair Deborah Sovinee, Town Engineer Ben Fehan, Redevelopment Authority member Forrest Lundvall, former Selectman Joe Mokrisky, Stoughton Historical Society President Dwight MacKerron, and Legislative Aide Ted Philips, as well as Kafka, Galvin and Joyce.  

A meeting during the early evening on Monday at , on the subject of the Train Station, drew only seven people. 

Bottom line, Interim Town Manager Feaster will be working with McGrath, and the engineering department to come up with a plan of action regarding the possible purchase of the Train Station from the MTBA.

***

HAPPY BIRTHDAY to: Shirley Nigri Farber, TV host and publisher of two magazines, one serving the Brazilian and Portuguese population, the other a Jewish readership.

Wednesday is also the birthday of Pam Mulcahey's grandmother Ann Greene. This year has been a challenge for her.We wish her an amazing year to come!

***

Sarah July 19, 2012 at 02:04 AM
It is gorgeous inside! I hope it can be reopened and renovated, keeping the historical charm.
Bruce Promisel July 19, 2012 at 12:49 PM
The town does not need the financial burden this will provide. Any private person who purchases it will be required to honor thw historic nature of the building so it is not necessary for Stoughton to own it. We have better use of our tax dollars (and remember the CPS funds are still your taxes).
Rob Mitchell August 11, 2012 at 12:18 PM
Who in their right mind is setting a fair market value of $350,000 for the train station and 30 parking spacing? In this economy? Really? While I feel it would be wonderful for Stoughton to purchase this historic structure (and prime parking) I just don't see hoping for private investment (in a restaurant) as a successful strategy. Unless there are dealings going on behind the backs of Stoughton residents, the train station would be a money pit. So, its already on the list of historic places so anyone that owns it (hello TRA) should have obligations to keep it from falling apart. Since they're looking to unload it, forget the fair market value and let's get it for a bargain because the maintenance and any potential renovations will cost more than the current FMV easily. If a private contrator wants to buy, it might be worth it. Stoughton seems to have sooo many financial problems already with lack of funding for police, fire, rescue, and schools (how much duct tape is holding building A up?) and we have our wonderful conservations purchases recently (Glen Echo, Bird) so I feel we should be good for now. I see from the published 01/24/2012 minutes from Stoughton's Community Preservation Committee that they might actually have the funding resources to make a bid on the matching funds proposal. Hmmm. This could get interesting. Hope is not strategy for success, yet I am hoping Stoughtonians smarter than me will do the right thing.
Rob Mitchell August 11, 2012 at 12:25 PM
@BrucePromisel - I agree. How about a high school building improvement first? If we up the ante for our schools, Stoughton's real estate will show improvements and, overall, Stoughton will be valued more highly. Invest in police, fire, and rescue. I feel its a no-brainer making Stoughton more of a premium town with terrific citizens doing more and taking more care of our town.

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