Future of Erwin Depot to be discussed in workshop

Commissioners set discussion date for Oct. 25

By LAURA PATTERSON
Assistant managing editor
Posted 10/12/21

With construction costs climbing and building materials hard to find, Erwin commissioners will head back to the drawing board to decide the depot’s future.

On Thursday, the town’s …

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Future of Erwin Depot to be discussed in workshop

Commissioners set discussion date for Oct. 25

Posted

With construction costs climbing and building materials hard to find, Erwin commissioners will head back to the drawing board to decide the depot’s future.

On Thursday, the town’s board of commissioners voted to set a date for a workshop to iron out how to pay for its renovation. The workshop will be held on Monday, Oct. 25, at 6 p.m. in the board room at 100 W. F St.

The Erwin Depot, which sat mostly untouched over the past few years, was a hot topic during Thursday’s regular monthly Erwin Board of Commissioners meeting.

Residents came forward to speak about the former train depot during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Erwin native and historian Joey Powell, a member of the Harnett County School Board, asked commissioners to consider funding for the Erwin Depot.

“I feel that this could be a great landmark for our town,” he said. “I think that it could be a huge benefit for our town. This has potential to be a showplace.”

He noted that he and his wife have traveled extensively throughout the state of North Carolina and have seen many restored depots. He said they are nice focal points in the community. He also talked about the growing Erwin History Room.

“We need the room for our museum,” Powell added. “We have a large collection of artifacts and we’re growing and we need somewhere to put them. I feel that ... providing the funds for restoring the depot will not only be a great addition aesthetically ... but it really could be a showplace to attract visitors, attract visitors to our museum ... help us educate our local populace ...”

Sion Harrington of the Erwin Historical Society provided commissioners with photos from 2016 when it was moved to its present location behind the Erwin Public Library and Erwin Community Building, and of its current condition today.

“There’s a sense of urgency,” he said, noting the holes in the roof and also the damage to the floors.

“If we preserve and restore this depot we will let people in surrounding towns know we are proud of our town and of those that came before us,” said Harrington, who gave a history of the depot and the benefits of restoring the building.

Rick Collins and Julianne Harrelson of the Becker Morgan Group presented plans and estimates to renovate the depot in March 2020.

“The estimated cost of the project at the time was $856,609,” Town Manager Snow Bowden told commissioners in a memorandum before Thursday’s meeting. “In the proposed estimates the costs to fix the existing Depot are $308,004. The $308,004 estimate does not include the ticket booth renovation.”

Early renovation plans called for reattaching the depot’s original ticket office to the building, adding a porch for events and creating a community space, complete with outdoor entertainment options.

Erwin’s History Room museum would move from its cramped quarters next to the library into a permanent home in the depot where its collections – some of it now in storage – can be put on display.

“What our plans are is we would move everything out of the history room from the historical society,” Mayor Patsy Carson told The Daily Record last month. “A lot of our history would be there. We want to put a porch on it and have events there. That’s what I would like to see and something I think other people would like to see, too. We would have all of our history inside the building. We talked at one point of putting our chamber of commerce in there. I just can’t see it costing all that much money. People have been so gracious donating so many things to the history room. So many things are packed up and in storage and we need to get those things out on display.”

But construction costs have increased since March 2020.

“From what I have been told by other contractors there are issues with even getting construction materials to complete the project,” Bowden told the board. “There have been increases from 5% up to 15% in construction costs since this presentation back in March 2020. We also need to factor in additional costs that come with a new building such as operating costs, heating and cooling the building and insurance.”

Commissioner Billy Turnage mentioned getting a loan to complete the project, noting Erwin’s status as a debt-free town. The revenue the town receives from its cell tower — $2,500 a month — could be used to pay off the loan, he told The Daily Record in September.

The old depot was moved to its current spot in a field behind the Erwin Public Library and Erwin Community Building in 2016. And there it sits with a leaking roof and broken window panes — a beacon of history and of hope to protect history into the future.

Emily Weaver contributed to this story.

Laura Patterson can be reached at lpatterson@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2029.

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