Grifton, CSX land deal may alter Shad Festival layout
By Amber Revels-Stocks
Monday, August 20, 2018
GRIFTON — The town of Grifton is looking into a lease agreement with CSX Transportation Inc. for the old railroad depot building.
Grifton and CSX had a lease agreement that allowed the town to use the building as a public facility and rent it out; however, that lease expired April 14, 2005, even though the town continued to use it, according to former Grifton Manager Joe Johnson.
“The attorney and I are going to be talking to CSX about this lease, but they’re hard people to get ahold of,” Johnson said.
CSX wants the town to pay $450 a year for the depot. The lease states the depot shall be used only “as a public facility and for historical purposes, and for no other purpose” and that if CSX determines the town’s use of the facility interferes with the railroad operation in any way, the town is expected to remedy it.
Johnson said he did not know what that meant for holding the Shad Festival. Grifton uses the depot as a stage for the musical acts as well as holding T-shirt sales in that area.
“There’s a lot of insurance language in there, too, that we want clarification on,” he said. “It may be that we just have to get a certain type of insurance and we’re OK.”
Commissioner Mary Grace Bright asked what would happen with the maintenance of the depot roof. She has been asking for a contractor to paint the roof since May, and recently the town has received bids from two contractors to scrape, prime and repaint the whole roof. The low bid was $8,7000 from Perfection Painting.
“I want to wait until we meet with CSX,” Johnson said. “There’s some language in the lease about needing repairs to fall under their standards, but they didn’t give us what those are.”
Bright also wanted to know if Mattie’s Mini-Park is included in the agreement. During a recent Grifton: Catch the Vision meeting, she realized the town did not own the mini-park, but that it was owned by CSX.
CSX and the town had a lease for the use of the property, but no one can currently locate it, according to Johnson.
“They don’t lease land as parks now,” he said. “They have a new CEO, and he thinks land is very important. They don’t want the liability of having kids playing on their property near the railroad.”
A CSX representative said the town possibly could buy the land at market value if the lease was found and no longer active, Johnson said. Bright asked what the market value was, but Johnson did not know. A surveyor, agreed upon by both the town and CSX, would have to come out and determine that.
“In the past, we’ve set up carnival rides (near the mini-park) and the tent on the backside of the depot (during Shad Fest), did anyone say anything about that?” Commissioner Claude Kennedy asked.
Johnson said, “No one ever had permission to do that.”
The representative he spoke to about the preliminary draft of the lease had to speak to her supervisor about the possibility.
“Their concern is the risk because there’s no barrier between people and the tracks. We have the bushes by the depot, but there’s not a fence anywhere,” Johnson said. “We may just have to get a different type of insurance to make sure we’re liable and not them.”