Ogden Revives Amazing Support of Union Station

Union Station at 90

The folks in the Union Station Foundation are smiling today. Ogden’s City Council stepped up Tuesday night and showed it really does support what several members of that council called “the gem of Ogden.”

They backed that up with money, too.

The deal’s still got a couple of hoops to jump through, but the council was clear in its support, and that’s what’s so good to see.

This is really big and we are really grateful.

As most folks know, Union Station was a city-owned and city-run entity until Mayor Matthew Godfrey  cut it loose 10 years ago. Ogden still owns the building and everything in it, but Godfrey pulled the city employees out, along with most city funding.  He told the Union Station Foundation, aided by a few very generous families, that they could run the place if they could.

Julie Lewis presents

Which they have. The city, Union Station’s owner and landlord, has helped with a few really basic repair projects, but the day-to-day running has been all on the foundation. Just keeping the electric and heating bills paid has been a major chore. More times than the city would like to admit, those generous families have stepped up and saved the station’s bacon.

Which is really unfair to those families. Union Station benefits the whole city.  The whole city should take part.

With new Mayor Mike Caldwell, that seems to be happening. Management Services Director Gregg Buxton has been very responsive to maintenance needs at Union Station. City staff seem to feel free to speak out for the station.

I was very heartened when, at Tue

sday’s City Council meeting, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer Mark L. Johnson talked about visiting the station during the display of the UP’s Big Boy steam engine. The thousands visiting the station reinforced his own view of the key place the station holds in Ogden, he said.

But the situation has to change. The station has a lot of long-delayed maintenance needs. The boiler, just to pick one, is in critical shape.

Crowds line up to see Big Boy

The Foundation was visiting the council Tuesday for two reasons: To receive a proclamation about the current station’s 90th anniversary, and to give a presentation on the need for the city to help keep Union Station thriving.

The proclamation, which is very appreciated, was during the council meeting.  The real meat and potatoes came with the presentation during the council’s work session afterwards.

Foundation Vice President Julie Lewis gave a long presentation which I can best summarize thus: Union Station needs to grow, Wall Avenue needs to develop, everyone loves agrees Union Station is invaluable, now’s the time to do it.

Hundreds flocked to Union Station

The ultimate goal is a capital campaign to renovate the station’s building and develop the laundry building.

In addition to Ogden, the foundation is working to get state support for the two state museums that are housed in Union Station.  Buxton argued for this as well, pointing out that the state provides operation and maintenance for other state buildings around the state, so it should also for Union Station.

The kicker was that the council agreed to amend the Capital Improvement  Plan budget to provide $283,000 to Union Station. The $200,000 will be to do the initial studies needed for a capital improvement campaign, which the Foundation will do to raise money for the eventual renovation.

The $83,000 is a down-payment on keeping Union Station running now. It will be a back-up fund, paying utility bills when the Foundation’s own funds run short. The council approved amending the CIP budget to move the funds. A public hearing still has to be held and a vote taken during a regular City Council meeting later this month.

The whole council seemed to favor the move, though. It’s really impossible to say how big a help this is.

The city will provide leadership and staff help for the capital campaign while the Foundation will chase the donations.

Meanwhile, Ogden is stepping up to keep Union Station functioning.

If the UP can keep Big Boy alive, Ogden can keep Union Station alive to greet it.