Letter to the Editor: Caboose project begs further questions

On June 9, the Town of West Jefferson will be receiving a caboose to be put on display in the parking lot behind the band stand on Back Street. The project has been organized by an ad hoc committee representing the Ashe County Historical Society. The historical society recently purchased the caboose and currently holds title to it.

The West Jefferson Town Council authorized a donation of $3,000 of town funds toward the purchase, and at its meeting on May 1, approved placing the caboose for display in the town owned parking lot.

There are numerous unanswered questions regarding the project that need to be discussed and resolved before the Town Council continues participation in the project.

  • Is the caboose going to have electrical service? Who will install it? Who will pay for it?
  • Is the caboose going to have heating or cooling? Who will install it? Who will pay for it?
  • Who will perform and pay for site preparation work and site maintenance?
  • Who will open it and close the caboose daily? During a rain storm?
  • Who will clean it daily/weekly? Who will empty the trash? Who will shovel the snow?
  • Will there be insurance provided for liability and accidents? Who will pay for it?
  • Will there be insurance for physical damage? Fire, electrical or heating malfunction, vandalism?
  • Is the police department concerned about vagrants using the caboose?
  • Who will pay for these damages if there is no insurance?
  • Who will decide on what color it is painted or how it will be displayed?
  • Will it be ADA compliant? Who will pull permits for codes and compliance?
  • If a volunteer group does not manage to maintain the caboose will the town pay for it?
  • Who will own title to the caboose?
  • Who would be responsible if it becomes a liability?
  • If there are costs to the town for the measures above what are they anticipated to be?

Depending on the answers to the questions, set-up costs for the caboose could run as much as $30,000, and yearly maintenance and operations another $12,000 per year. Are there funds in the historical society caboose account to cover these costs or are the project supporters expecting the Town to pick up these costs?

It has been suggested by members of the caboose committee that the caboose be added to the West Jefferson Parks department as another asset like rest rooms, tennis courts and playgrounds. The difference is that these other assets serve town residents; the caboose would serve town visitors directly and tourism oriented businesses indirectly.

The caboose project has been promoted to the Town Council as a way to improve tourism for the town,. It may in fact serve that function, but is it the responsibility of the West Jefferson property owners to incur the costs of set-up, maintenance and operation? These issues should be resolved before the caboose is deliver to town property.

Christopher Born

West Jefferson, NC

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