The Moline Preservation Society and state Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-East Moline, joined the fight Thursday to save an 112-year-old Moline railroad depot from demolition, calling for help from the public.
At a news conference at the Davenport, Rock Island & Northwestern depot, 2021 River Drive, Diann Moore, preservation society president, said it is trying to raise $155,000 so the building can be moved to the Western Illinois University Quad Cities Riverfront campus.
Already, $15,000 has been pledged, she said.
Sen. Jacobs encouraged residents and businesses to financially support the effort, saying he will be making a pledge, too.
"History matters. History is important," he said. "We should not have to choose between the past and the present. They are in the same channel of the river," he said.
"I ask people to step forward and contribute," Sen. Jacobs said. "I also ask the city council to reconsider."
The depot, a designated Moline landmark, is in the way of an Interstate 74 ramp to be constructed when the new bridge is built. The Illinois Department of Transportation offered to pay up to $1 million to help move it to the Riverfront campus, including a $140,000 payment to Moline for the land.
WIU officials have said the school would spend more than $300,000 to refurbish the depot and use it as a welcome center.
IDOT expected Moline to cover some costs of the depot's move, such as disconnecting utilities, repairing or replacing the existing storm windows and repairing the roof, original windows and gutters.
Estimates received by the Moline Historic Preservation Commission put Moline's costs at $154,776. The commission wanted the city to contribute the $140,000 land payment from IDOT and offered to raise another $35,000 to cover the move and create a contingency fund.
On Tuesday, five Moline aldermen voted against moving the depot after city administrator Lew Steinbrecher said the IDOT land payment could go into the general fund.
That decision surprised many people, said Moline Historic Preservation Commission chairwoman Barb Sandberg who noted the commission has worked for three years to get the depot moved.
"We thought we were on track," she said, adding that was the public's perception, too.
The preservation society hopes to raise the money within two months. Construction of a road behind the university is scheduled to start this fall; once it is done, street lights will be installed. The depot must be moved before the lights are installed, Ms. Moore said, or it will drive up the cost.
"We really need support quickly," she said. "This is a chance for people to speak with their pocketbooks."
Alds. Scott Raes, 3rd Ward, and Lori Turner, 5th Ward, who voted for the move on Tuesday, attended Thursday's news conference. Ald. Raes said he will bring it up next week that aldermen were under the impression the money could be used another way when they voted on the depot's move.
Since Tuesday's meeting, Mr. Steinbrecher's comment has been clarified, Ald. Raes said. The IDOT land payment cannot go into the city's general fund, he said, because the depot was bought in 1994 with tourism dollars. Money from the land sale must be used for tourism.
"With the new information that has come out, it is only fair the council reconsider," Ald. Turner said.
However, only an alderman who voted against the move can bring the issue back up for a vote.
In 2009, Landmarks Illinois placed the depot on its list of 10 most-endangered historic places. Ms. Moore said the society will see if grants are available through Landmarks Illinois. She also encouraged people to call city council members and share their opinions about the depot.
At least one alderman commented before Tuesday's vote that the state is broke but would be spending up to $1 million to relocate the depot. Sen. Jacobs said he was offended when he learned the depot likely would be demolished.
"IDOT agreed to move this building," he said. "It is not like we don't have the money. The state has the money. The money is in place."
How you can get involved
-- To make a pledge for the depot's move, visit molinepreservation.org and leave a note by clicking on "Webmaster" at the bottom of the page. Once the society has enough pledges to cover the costs, it will ask people to fulfill their pledge with a donation. Because the society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, donations are tax-deductible.
-- For details on how to contact Moline aldermen, visit moline.il.us.