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Roundhouse authority OKs lease of buildings for W.Va. National Guard storage

January 09, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The West Virginia National Guard plans to use a portion of the historic Baltimore & Ohio Railroad roundhouse and maintenance shop complex in Martinsburg as a long-term storage facility for military equipment, a spokesman said Monday.

The commercial lease agreement approved Monday by the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority’s board would be worth more than $560,000 over five years.

The Roundhouse Authority, which is about $400,000 in debt, stands to collect $97,808 in the first year of the lease with Las Vegas-based government contractor TsiCorp, according to the agreement.

The lease rate would increase to $117,808 per year after the first 12 months, if the National Guard agreed to extend the terms.

The lease is for use of the bridge and machine shop building and immediate adjacent areas around the 20,000-square-foot structure, according to Clarence E. “CEM” Martin III, chairman of the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority.

The adjoining roundhouse and Frog and Switch buildings are not part of the lease agreement, but the grounds of the complex will be maintained and secured by personnel with the National Guard, Martin said.

“We plan to operate a long-term storage facility for different types of military equipment,” National Guard Lt. Col. David P. Lester said in a phone interview after the Roundhouse Authority board meeting. “Once the appropriate people are hired, our initial focus will be to get the property cleaned up and ready for the equipment.”

The West Virginia National Guard does not anticipate “any significant increase” in regular truck or vehicle traffic in the immediate vicinity of the complex because the equipment is being stored for the long term, Lester said.

“We look at the roundhouse property as a great opportunity for both the Martinsburg community and the West Virginia National Guard,” Lester said. “We don’t want to change the dynamics or the character of the property.”

Community use of the cast-iron frame roundhouse and the Frog and Switch building will be maintained and the roundhouse authority voted separately Monday to lease the buildings to the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival for the festival’s arts and crafts show this year for $2,000.

The festival has previously held the two-day arts and crafts event at the Berkeley County Youth Fairgrounds.

Martin said the festival’s interest in holding one of the events at the historic railroad complex is another “huge breakthrough” for the roundhouse authority, which has struggled to continue efforts to redevelop the property with little operating revenue.

The authority’s current annual expenses are about $48,000, according to a progress report Martin presented last year to county leaders.

The Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority was formed in 1999 to preserve, restore and redevelop the 13.6-acre property, which was purchased by the Berkeley County Commission and then transferred to the authority, a public corporation created by an act of the state Legislature.

The railroad shop buildings replaced the original railroad maintenance shop complex that was burned during the Civil War.

The first nationwide railroad strike began at the existing roundhouse and red-brick shop buildings along Tuscarora Creek in 1877. CSX Transportation, which absorbed the B&O through a series of mergers, operated the shop complex until 1988.

About $8 million has been allocated for the stabilization and restoration of the buildings and Martin said Monday that another $8 million to $10 million is needed to complete interior renovations.

Going forward, Martin said the priorities will be paying off a $300,000 bank loan and about $100,000 owed to a contractor, as well as interior renovations.

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