City’s efforts to stabilize Depot appreciated
Published 9:56 am Wednesday, July 26, 2017
The city is once again going to try and get the depot back in shape.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Friday authorized city clerk Walter Osborne to advertise for bids for the project called the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Railroad Depot stabilization and restoration project, a $510,040 project designed to improve the exterior of the building and fix the building’s broken elevator.
Under the plan, the repair project involves replacing ornamental woodwork on the building’s exterior, repairing the building’s 48 windows, painting the depot’s exterior, replacing its elevator, repairing the building’s cupola on the roof and renovations to the building’s front door to make it handicap-accessible.
The depot’s elevator has been a problem since the building reopened in 2012, at times trapping people inside on the third floor, which once housed the Vicksburg Main Street offices and a conference room used by Main Street and the Vicksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau. The elevator was shut down by state officials as a safety hazard, and the fact that it has taken this long to get the project underway is a tragedy.
But the blame in this case should not rest with the city. Under the terms of the grant agreement, the Mississippi Department of Transportation, which administers the grant, had to approve the plans before the city could go out for bids.
When the initial project bids came in overbudget, the plans were redrawn in consultation with the two contractors who bid on the project, and again had to be reviewed by MDOT, even though the only change was the removal of masonry work, which one city official said was put in “as an afterthought.”
Given the 111-year-old building’s history, this is a project that should have been done years ago. The depot has been a landmark in the city since its construction in 1906. The spring 2011 Mississippi River floods delayed an earlier restoration project on the depot, and the building served as the backdrop for national television coverage of the flood.
Besides its position as a city landmark, the depot is also the home of the Old Depot Museum, one of the city’s tourist attractions. It’s a piece of the old city’s history and worthy of better care than it’s receiving. The stabilization project will improve that care. It’s a shame it has taken so long.