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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

In Boones Mill
Proposed land swap deal may save old train depot
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Courtesy Art: Ann Howell Taylor of Maryland painted this scene of the Boones Mill Train Station from a photo she took when a steam locomotive made a trip by the depot last year. The 108-year-old train depot may be on its way to being moved and restored.

Monday, August 12, 2013

By CHARLES BOOTHE - Staff Writer

The Franklin County Board of Supervisors on Friday gave county staff the go-ahead to look into a land swap deal with the Town of Boones Mill that may help save the old train depot there.

Boone District Supervisor Ronnie Thompson told the board that the town is willing to trade a piece of land on the old North American Homes property for the parcel the county now uses as a convenience site.

The county's site is 1.572 acres, he said, and the parcel that the town would give to be used as a convenience site is about the same acreage and in a better location.

Thompson said the county property could serve as an ideal location for the old train depot, which must be moved or its owners, Norfolk Southern Corporation, will demolish it.

One of the hold-ups on the move has been to find a suitable location for the structure as close to the current depot site as possible.

The county's dumpster site would serve that purpose, Thompson said. It is only about 100 yards away.

"We believe this will be a win-win situation for both parties," he said. "The present site of the dumpsters presents a highly banked road, crossing the railroad with visibility of only 100 yards coming from the north. Also, complaints of trash odor and trash being scattered or falling off trucks would be eliminated to the benefit of town residents."

Boones Mill Mayor Ben Flora was on hand for the decision, made during a scheduled board retreat Friday at the government center.

"This is our biggest hurdle," he said of the location problem. "It (the county's convenience site) is a great site for the old depot. We want to do it right."

The deal also comes at a great time, said town council member Mike Smith, because the Virginia Department of Historic Resources is providing funding for a study of the historic property in the town. That could lead to a historic district designation, which would open the door for possible grants to be used to renovate the old depot.

The 108-year-old depot was a point of controversy last year when Norfolk Southern said it would donate the structure to the town, provided that it was moved. Otherwise, the dilapidated depot was facing demolition because of liability issues for NS.

The town and community responded, but problems erupted when a group of citizens "took over" fundraising and preservation efforts, a move that was not in line with what the town wanted to do, said former town manager and police chief Lynn Frith at the time.

That discord is over, Flora said, and a committee is now meeting with the full support of town council and getting the ball rolling, keeping in touch with NS and raising the money for the move and restoration.

This move also comes on the heels of the firing of Frith on Aug. 1.

Flora would not comment on the firing, but said there is now a new "spirit of cooperation" between the town and the county, something that had been missing in recent years.

Thompson agreed.

"This is a great step forward," he said. "This is the first of several future endeavors with the town and county working together."

Smith said he recently set up a Facebook page for the town, historic Boones Mill Virginia, and it has already had almost 5,000 hits.

"This is a new era for the town," Flora said, adding that Boones Mill is in an ideal location for development.

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