Frustrating delays on depot project
The historic C-and-O railroad depot in Marlinton has sat in ruins for more than three years and it's probably going to stay that way for the rest of the summer.
Dale Withrow, architect with Chapman Technical Group, reported that the project is a month behind schedule and that plans have not been submitted to the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) for approval.
In an August 8 email to the Marlinton Railroad Depot Corporation (MRDC), Withrow said he would try to "dedicate more forces" to the project.
"I must report that we are about four weeks behind schedule," he wrote. "By the end of this week I should be able to dedicate more forces to the project and make up some lost time. I will get a revised schedule to you before the end of this week."
Withrow's report did not sit well with members of the MRDC, a non-profit set up to maintain the historic structure.
In an August 8 email, Marlinton recorder and MRDC board member Robin Mutscheller complained to Withrow about the delays.
"I am sorry our Depot project always gets pushed to the bottom of your list," she wrote. "Our Byway group has been trying to work on a date for two Governors (WV & VA) to meet in Marlinton for a groundbreaking ceremony and it looks like we are still not close yet after all these months. I've also been telling our elected officials and the community at large that we are going to bid any day and I guess that's not the case, either. I hope your firm can find the time and resources to see this project completed in a timely fashion."
Withrow responded by email on August 9 and said contract issues were partly to blame for the delay.
"As to your project being pushed to the bottom of the list, please recall that the project went "on hold" for a long time due to circumstances out of our control and our contract expired in June of 2010," he wrote. "It was only recently renewed on June 21, 2011. It now has its place in the schedule and we are doing as much as we can to get it completed as quickly as reasonably possible."
In an August 10 email, MRDC president Sue Herold took Withrow to task for the contract problem.
"What I don't understand about this whole mess is why, when our contract expired in June of 2010, you did not call a meeting to discuss and renew said contract," she wrote. "We are a volunteer organization and we are paying you quite a bit of money to be the professional who handles the project."
Withrow informed the MRDC on June 15 that project plans would be submitted to DOH for review no later than June 29. DOH official Jeffrey Harpoldt reported to the MRDC on August 9 that he had not received the plans.
Since fire destroyed the depot in March 2008, MRDC successfully obtained grants and raised 20-percent matching funds to rebuild the depot.
In August 2009, Governor Joe Manchin announced the award of $335,040 to the project from the West Virginia Transportation Enhancement grant program, a Federal Highway Administration (FHA) program that supports non-traditional projects such as preservation of historic resources, tourism development, construction of pedestrian and bicycle trails and preservation of viewsheds along highways.
The MRDC also secured a $127,000 grant from the National Scenic Byways, an FHA program to preserve and enhance selected roads throughout the U.S.
Manchin, now a U.S. senator, visited Marlinton on Monday. During the visit, Marlinton mayor and MRDC secretary Joe Smith informed the senator of the project delays. According to Smith, the senator expressed concern and said he would look into the matter.
Withrow did not respond to calls and a fax to his Chapman Technical Group office in St. Albans.
The Chesapeake and Ohio Railway built the bright yellow station in 1898. Most of the distinctive C&O buildings were torn down, but the Marlinton Depot survived as one of the last remaining examples. The building is listed listed on the National Register of Historic Places.