Worthington News

Fence issue could force Ohio Railway Museum to close

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The Ohio Railway Museum could be forced to close its doors if it can't come to an agreement with an abutting property owner.

Worthington City Council used its influence July 14 to encourage negotiations between the two sides, but no firm assurances were made by the end of the meeting.

The issue is between the railway museum, at 990 Proprietors Road, and ERJV Properties, 966 Proprietors Road.

For the past 25 years or so, the museum's fence has encroached onto the property, keeping people from trespassing onto the museum's train tracks, which align with its property boundary.

When the fence was erected in the late 1980s, the ERJV property was the general store and storage area of Worthington Foods. A lease agreement with Worthington Foods was not renegotiated after the company moved during the 1990s.

When a new company purchased the store, nothing changed. The new owner did not approach the museum, and all was well.

When ERJV purchased the property in March 2013, the museum was asked to pay for encroaching on the property. The amount offered was not sufficient, said Robert Jones, ERJV general manager.

"He said he wanted his land back," museum volunteer staff member Chris Howell said.

The museum is operated by volunteers, and any money collected from admissions goes back into maintaining the 30 pieces of railway equipment in the collection, Howell said.

Council member Scott Myers said the museum is "destitute."

He and other council members encouraged Jones to work with the museum to come to a reasonable solution, one that council members hope would allow the museum to remain in Worthington.

The issue came before council only because ERJV had applied for $25,000 from the city to assist in improving the exterior of the building.

Council voted at the end of the discussion to grant the combination grant ($12,500) and no-interest loan ($12,500) through the city's new Re-emergent Corridor Assistance Program, known as ReCAP. Over the next two years, the money will go toward a complete facade renovation.

Council members said they were pleased with plans to improve the property and did not want to reject the grant/loan request over a property dispute. Still, council members took advantage of their position to encourage a resolution that some said would benefit all 14,000 people in Worthington.

"All I have is $12,500 and a microphone," Myers said.

Jones said he felt as though council were ganging up on him, but he agreed to continue to negotiate with museum representatives.

"I am happy to continue dealing with them," he said.

Founded in 1948, the Ohio Railway Museum is one of the oldest railroad museums in America. It is designed to educate through displays and demonstrations the role and effect of the railroads in the life of the people and businesses of Ohio.

It is open from noon to 4 p.m. Sundays, from May through December.

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