CP Rail offers Minnedosa train station to heritage committee; offer rejected


By: Kate Jackman-Atkinson


Today, the train station in Minnedosa sits vacant and unused. Thanks to volunteer effort, it’s in a long-term state of preservation, a state in which it’s likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

Last week, the Minnedosa Heritage Committee officially rejected the CP Rail’s offer to sell the building to the committee said committee member and RM of Minto councillor Brion Pollon.

The station was built in 1910. It was last used as a train station in 1960. However, CP continued to use it as office space until sometime around the year 2000.

A grass roots movement started in 2005 to pursue acquiring the station and refurbishing two thirds of it for community use.  The remaining third (at the west end of the building) was originally unheated freight storage and would remain as storage or workshop space.

Towards the end of 2005, at a Holiday Train stop in Minnedosa, the committee had been told that they could have the unused station for $1.  This is similar to agreements other communities made with railways to repurpose unused stations for community use.

Repairs undertaken
Understanding that they had secured the building, committee members got to work making necessary repairs to the building, which had fallen into some disrepair.  They replaced the roof and windows, cleaned up the site, installed an air exchanger in the basement and did some painting. 

By 2008, this work was completed with $65,000 in purchased materials, countless volunteer hours as well as donations of materials and the use of tools, such as saws, from local businesses and individuals.
The committee didn’t do any work to the inside, since this would require the approval from the Historic Sites and Monuments Board in Ottawa.

There were a number of proposed uses for the building brought forward, including office space for the economic development officer, the planning department or a community organization, such as the archives committee.  However, restoring the building year-round is expected to cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to make it useful and up to $100,000 to bring it up to today’s standards. 

For example, the bathrooms would need to be updated and the furnace hasn’t been used in 15 years. Without a committed tenant, undertaking this work was deemed too expensive. “We had a couple of general interest inquiries [from potential tenants], but the amount of money [to restore the interior] sank the project,” said Pollon.

Since the exterior restoration work was competed, the committee has been waiting. Pollon said a couple of years ago, a representative from CP’s real estate department came to look at the site. The Minnedosa committee put the proposal forward for CP to again use the building as a train station, however word came back from head office that they weren’t interested in the building.

Pollon said that the third best option, behind CP reopening it for passenger service and the community finding a year-round tenant, was to operate the building as a seasonal museum and visitors’ centre.
In 2011, CP told the committee that the original offer (selling the building for $1) was off the table, but offered a lease agreement. 

The committee could lease the land and building for $1,500 per year.  The committee discussed this and agreed to accept the offer.  However, they were then informed that the offer was no longer available.  The local committee was asked to put forward an offer to purchase.

Offer to purchase
The committee put forward an offer to purchase the building for $1 and to lease the land in exchange for a charitable donation receipt of $1,500 per year. CP would effectively give the committee a donation for the value of the lease. Pollon said that their offer to purchase included a four page listing of local investment in the building. 

“It had an assessed value of $10,000, as a vacant building, before it was fixed.  All of the improvements were paid for by us,” said Pollon.

In January, CP came back with their counter offer: $30,000 to purchase the building and a five-year lease of $1,800 per year, to be paid in cash, for the land. Additionally, there were stipulations on the contract, include one preventing the committee from subletting the building.  “We’d be responsible for all taxes, insurance, every last single expense,” said Pollon.

Last Friday, the committee met for an hour and a half to discuss the offer and unanimously voted to decline the offer. The volunteer committee doesn’t have the resources to take on the project at that price. “They know we’re a grass roots organization, we’re not setting up a business and generating revenue,” said Pollon. They informed CP of their decision.

Pollon said that the terms of CP’s offer make sense for businesses, such as grain terminals, establishing along rail lines, but doesn’t make sense in the case of the Minnedosa station. CP has indicated on multiple occasions that they have no intention of resuming railway operations to the station.

“Its only residua value is historic and cultural,” said Pollon.

At this point, it’s unknown what the final decision will be, but there is hope that CP will come back with a counter offer.

“The ball is back in CP’s court, what they do is up to them… We’ve shown a solid commitment to getting something done,” said Pollon.

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