WLPA decides to disband

By Jen coe - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Tue., Mar. 22, 2011
Members listened solemnly to an explanation of why it was being proposed that the WLPA disband. Photos by Jen Coe.
Members listened solemnly to an explanation of why it was being proposed that the WLPA disband. Photos by Jen Coe.

After receiving certified letters in the mail, about 20 members of the Windsor Locks Preservation Association, Inc. met with founders Barbara Schley and Mickey Danyluk last week.  The group has been attempting  to obtain and renovate the historic train station on Main Street since 2004. After a history of the work done by the group’s leaders was given, members could sense the bad news unfolding.  “At this point,” said Schley, “I think it is in the best interest of the train station that the town of Windsor Locks takes over the project,” she said.
The WLPA has been consistently negotiating with town officials and Amtrak  to evaluate the .97 acre site and unique train depot building which was erected in 1875, in order to purchase it. After seven years, the group had accumulated more than $300,000 in grants and cash, which it had planned to use to refurbish the site and make it open to the public.  According to Schley, for the last two years, the organization has been seeking a letter from the town of Windsor Locks, per a request from Amtrak. But, with no letter forthcoming, the project has been stalled.
“Do I think the building can still be saved?” said Schley. “Yes. But after a couple of discussions with Mickey, the decision has been made that we are going to dissolve the group,” said Schley to the members that night. Some were shocked and others were not.
“The main reason the WLPA decided to dissolve is directly due to our frustration for lack of assistance and cooperation from the town’s officials in moving forward with Amtrak,” said Schley, after the meeting.
 WLPA member Maria Giannuzzi spoke up at the meeting and asked what was going to happen to the funds which were collected.  “I believe there are other preservation projects in town that the group could undertake,” said Giannuzzi. “It was pretty obvious that a small group of members had already decided that the WLPA should be dissolved,” she said.
 According to Schley, $225,000 of the money comes from a STEAP grant from the state of Connecticut. “This grant was awarded solely for the acquisition and restoration of the train station,” said Schley and added that it would go back to the state if unused.  The remainder of the funds collected in grants must be returned or placed on hold for legal reasons.
 “The WLPA was trying to acquire approximately an acre of land, and a portion of that land may need to be utilized to relocate the Windsor Locks train platform,” said Patrick McMahon, the Economic Development consultant for Windsor Locks.  “We have been working very closely with Amtrak and the Dept. of Transportation to encourage them to move the station for a couple of years,” he said, referring to the barren cement platform currently located on the Windsor/Windsor Locks line.
 “Amtrak’s request stated the building and site could not be utilized for passengers,” said McMahon. “We couldn’t write that letter,” he said.  “We’re fine with the sale of the building, but until we knew where the platform was going to go – we have been hesitant to write the letter.”
McMahon said that the decision to dissolve the group came as a shock because it was his understanding that they had just obtained their non-profit status. “The town was definitely supportive of the train depot being improved,” said McMahon. “The relocation of the train stop is the real catalyst to redeveloping that whole area,” he added. “We wish that they had informed us of their intent to dissolve – they all knew that we were working on this relocation project.” 
McMahon also added that he “applauds the WLPA for getting the whole conversation started,” and that they are willing to provide the town with all the assessments that were done on the property during the last seven years.  
“Nobody wants this building done more than we do,” said Schley who said she is consistently concerned about the effect that the bad winter had on the structure.

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