Babel’s train station to nowhere was true to its costly reputation at last night’s General Committee meeting of Babel city council. City staff was asking council to approve another $680,000 to pay for some interior work on the historic Allandale Station buildings. They needed to make one of the building’s habitable for a single city employee to be able to work there.
It seems that the city staff had discovered that they cannot take over insuring the finished (outside anyway) project unless the building is used for some city purpose. You would have sworn that the Keystone Kops of another era had come inside city hall for the winter. Some councillors were stunned. Some put on their thinking caps. Some tossed out ill-considered solutions. And a few tried to change the staff-written resolution to provide the money. It could have gone on for quite a while if one councillor had not finally pointed out that maybe staff should solve their own problem.
City staff people, who were in attendance in the council chambers—there to provide ‘wise’ council—were horrified. They looked at each other in dismay. They had already missed one bullet when a councillor innocently asked what the total bill was for the restoration of the historic station. There might be a small overrun, it was admitted. It would still be close to the $4.3 million, the councillors were told.
But it was very disturbing for the staff flunkies to take the flack for this new problem. They were given until February 6 to come back with a plan. They were told find a better way to insure the buildings. They were also told to find someone who can find a tenant for one of the buildings. It was suggested that a commercial real estate person might be whom they need.
And that was when you knew that the whole thing would be derailed again. They obviously are not familiar with how commercial real estate people work. These are people you hire for their knowledge of a market, the relative costs for different types of facilities and where they might be found. If you ask them to find a tenant, they will take the shortest route possible to a solution. The shortest route in Babel would be to McDonald’s for a Big Mac.
But even if the Golden Arches rise over the train station, then the problem will be where can McDonald’s customers find places to park? And how do you arrange the drive-through window without ruining the effects of the restoration?
Mind you, the councillor who asked for this bounce-back to staff said that he really wants to have a legacy tenant, maybe a museum. That is an even more interesting challenge.
Above the fray in the council chamber, a lone spectator, who looked like Mark Porter, sat with a Mona Lisa smile observing all these deliberations. He must have been waiting for the next item on the agenda. The last item was his offer to solve all the problems if council just gives him a four-month exclusive opportunity to negotiate a deal for the other 4.1 acres of land around the station. They gave him three months which was fair enough.
But all that time he sat there, he must have been thinking: I have to negotiate with these people. It will probably be like a battle of wits with people who are unarmed.
Copyright 2012 © Peter Lowry
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