Scott City nearing deal with Union Pacific

Friday, September 21, 2007

After more than a year of negotiations, and some frustration on the part of city leaders at the slow pace of those negotiations, Scott City is on the verge of reaching an agreement with Union Pacific Railroad for the purchase of a parking lot on Main Street.

The city council gave city administrator Ron Eskew the green light to sign a contract with Union Pacific to purchase the land once the terms have been solidified.

City leaders and Union Pacific won't disclose the asking price for the land -- UP company policy prevents them from disclosing the price of a land deal while it's still in negotiations -- but Mayor Tim Porch said the price is higher than the city had originally hoped.

However, Porch said the city is happy that progress is being made on the deal, and hopes the contract will be signed soon.

"We're happy with the amount of land we got," Porch said. "It's not a done deal yet, but we'll be happy if we get it closed."

Eskew said the contract is now being reviewed by the appropriate UP personnel, and while the deal is far from final, "we're a lot closer than we were at this time last year," and the deal should be finalized within 60 days.

One of the contracts terms will require Scott City to install a fence between the parking lot and the nearby railroad tracks, Eskew said. The city will purchase 1.124 acres, Eskew said.

The lot is on Main Street, across the street from the Scott City VFW hall. Businesses and a church across the street use the lot, and Scott City teenagers use the space as a hang-out spot.

A historic caboose commemorating the city's birth as a railroad town also sits at the lot, and the city has made several improvements by installing lighting and planting vegetation.

The land was first acquired by a railroad in 1904, when the Gray's Point Terminal Railroad Company purchased it -- a forerunner of the Cotton Belt railroad that would later become part of Union Pacific, said UP spokesman Mark Davis.

The city has leased the land since 1964, paying $1,500 this year. Lease payments increase by 3 percent every year, so the city wanted to purchase the land instead of spending money without a return on the investment, Eskew said.

Davis said he couldn't comment on when the contract negotiations would become final.

Porch said immediate plans are to use the area as a parking lot, but the land could be improved in the future, possibly with a city museum, an idea that has been talked about in the past.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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