OLYMPIA - Reversing an earlier decision, the Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to restore 2011 maintenance funding for the Amtrak Centennial Station in Lacey.
Olympia will pay Intercity Transit, the owner of the depot, $11,067 for the year out of its goal money fund, which is used for emerging issues.
The city and five other local jurisdictions have agreed to help Intercity Transit fund the station’s maintenance budget since it was built in 1993. The building, conceived and funded by volunteers, receives no staff and limited financial support from perpetually cash-strapped Amtrak.
But Olympia dropped funding for 2011 during budget balancing last year. Council members said they couldn’t afford it given the economy and city budget cuts.
Council members unanimously approved the cut last year. But they changed their tune after receiving criticism from train enthusiasts and the other jurisdictions that have also provided maintenance funding.
“We need to show what the city government is about,” Councilwoman Karen Rogers said. “We need to honor our word.
Olympia has an agreement with Intercity Transit to provide maintenance funding through 2013. But the agreement allows Olympia to simply opt out by not appropriating money.
It costs about $70,000 per year to maintain the station. The cost is split among the jurisdictions based on population – Thurston County, Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm and the Port of Olympia. Amtrak, which does not staff the station, is providing $8,619 in funding this year.
Mah has stressed that jurisdictions look for alternative funding for the station, and has questioned whether it is a core city function to pay for a train station. Some options discussed are a parking fee, more support from Amtrak, a ticket surcharge, more volunteer support, and having Intercity Transit increase its funding.
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org