Meeting minutes – July 10, 2010 – Durand

Monthly Membership Meeting
Durand Union Station
July 10, 2010

 Those signing in:  Kay Chase, Jim Hinkins, Steve Sobel, Rich Vavra-Musser, Roger Webster, Dale Gartner, Richard Pekarek, Barney Whittier, Don Monteith, Gus Swenson, John Langdon, John DeLora, Clark Charnetski, Phil Chamberlain, Norma Ward, Gary Ramberg, Matt Marderosian, Fred Holmer Jr, David Cammon, Jim Wallington, Dave Randall, Pat Post, Robert Tischbein, Dietrich Bergmann, Steven Burns, Diane Patterson, Robert Patterson, J.R. Valderas

 Also present:  Dan Brooks, Chair of the Durand Union Station Board of Directors

 Call To Order:  The meeting was called to order at 10:00 a.m. by Chair John DeLora. Kay Chase was asked to take minutes in the absence of Secretary Hugh Gurney. Added to the agenda was a presentation by Dan Brooks, Chair of the Durand Union Station Board of Directors. J.R. Valderas announced that there would be a meeting to discuss National Train Day 2011 following lunch today.

 Matt Marderosian, Director of Save Our Trains Michigan, briefed the members about problems with vagrants, maintenance, and parking at the East Lansing Station. Incidents are worst around 4:00 – 6:00 pm. The building is owned by Michigan State University, but is leased to the Capitol Area Transit Authority.  DeLora pointed out that MSU, as owner, is ultimately responsible for the building and asked that Matt make sure that there is a formal police report filed for any incident. DeLora will communicate with MSU and Jim Wallington will talk with area elected officials.

 Presentation:  Dan Brooks, Chair of the Durand Union Station Board of Directors, told of the circumstances surrounding the January 2009 flooding of the DUSI archives as a result of the freezing of a heating system drip valve in the attic and subsequent water flow. The incident happened after the station had closed on an evening of sub-zero temperatures. Fire department response was quick, but materials in boxes and on the tops of the shelving units suffered water damage and there were a couple of inches of water on the floor. Due to quick action on the part of volunteers and help from museum professionals, most materials were salvaged. If there was a bright side to the disaster, it was that in the process of accessing, drying out, and restoring materials, the collection was organized and indexed.  Members of DUSI now have online access to archival materials. Because the underlying cause of the incident was the furnace in the basement, a device has now been installed to allow remote monitoring of the furnace temperature. Also, the culprit drip tube has been extended into the archive room so that it can be monitored and drained. Wayne Pickvet, a Flint Journal retiree, spent countless hours restoring, matting and framing damaged photos. He then arranged them in “storylines” throughout the depot and researched and wrote detailed descriptive captions.

 The library, one of only seven railroad libraries in the country, suffered little damage. Its 7000 articles and books are accessible through an online catalog. Additional materials continue to come into the library, with some 200 books being donated just in the past week.

 Dan has been invited to make a presentation to a Great American Stations event in Chicago, focusing on the potential economic benefit of Durand Union Station museum, library and archives to the community.

 In answer to Clark Charnetsky’s inquiry, Dan said DUSI is interested in acquiring materials that preserve the history of railroading in Michigan, document rolling stock and equipment, and tell the story of what railroading in the state was like.

 Minutes:  The minutes of the June 12 meeting in New Buffalo were approved with 2 corrections: 1) on page 5, change 100 to 600 visitors to the Jackson National Train Day event; 2) on page 3 under Government Affairs, the 2nd and 3rd sentences should read “The Michigan Environmental Council is organizing 13-14 such forums across the state. The forums will provide input to the Michigan State Rail Plan which is required by federal law.”

 Treasurer’s Report was given by Dave Randall. As of June 30, 2010, MARP had $5,489.98 in the checking account and the Pratt Fund was valued at $12,266.53.  Dues revenue is up 119% this year due largely to the mailing to NARP members which brought 50 new memberships in a variety of categories and $98.00 in contributions. The operating ratio at this point in the year is 51.07%. $220 was spent on a plaque placed in the Grand Rapids station to honor long-time station volunteer Ray Hamacher who also played an important part in reviving the Pere Marquette route. Langdon moved acceptance of the report, Vavra-Musser seconded and the members present approved.

 Vice-Chairman Report:  Barney Whittier reported that Westrain has received a $10,000 grant and is promoting “Take the Train to the Beach”, encouraging visitors to St. Joseph from the Grand Rapids area. Staff from St. Joseph Today meet visitors at the trains and provide guides to attractions in the Silver Beach area.

 Coordinator Reports

  Government Affairs: John Langdon reported that the “West Michigan Owl Train”  – an initiative of five SW Michigan legislators (Sen. Jelinek, Reps. Proos, Tyler, Schuitmaker, Lori) to bring a train out of Chicago at 10:00 pm, overnight at Kalamazoo, and return to Chicago early in the morning – appears to be on hold for the present.  Langdon suggests discussion of this concept with Tom Carper, Chairman of the Amtrak Board.  August 6 is the deadline for applications for a new round of FRA funding for high speed rail. Michigan’s FY 2011 transportation budget includes $8.667M for the Pere Marquette and Blue Water routes. The budget bill is in conference committee, presumably due to the quarrel between the house and the senate over the Detroit River International Crossing.  Michigan has contracted with HNTB Consultants to develop the State Rail Plan mandated by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2009 (PRIAA). MARP and the Michigan Environmental Council are continuing a series of Michigan By Rail Forums at locations around the state to provide input to this process. Great Lakes Central will be providing free rail transportation from Cadillac to the Traverse City forum on July 22, using the recently refurbished commuter cars that will be used for the SE Michigan commuter services. Members are advised to watch for an email announcement of the forum in their area. Complete information is available on the website <>. Langdon called attention to an MEC proposal “Building a Transportation Reform Partnership in Michigan.” Citing the need to build a “credibility file”, John DeLora asked members to email him regarding anything the MARP has influenced or instituted.

           Communications Coordinator Report:  Citing the need for accuracy in any statements made to the public, Kay Chase is drafting 2 documents that she will circulate to the executive committee for comment – a briefing sheet for candidates and a fact sheet on Michigan trains. When finalized, these will be available to all members. Jim Wallington lauded Larry Sobczak for his work on the MARP website and urged members to visit it frequently to stay abreast of news and events. J.R. Valderas said that the Summer edition of The Michigan Passenger will be out soon. He will contact the printer to see what the cost would be to use a higher quality of paper and ink. DeLora said that Ken Prendergast of All Aboard Ohio asked him to tell J.R. that The Michigan Passenger is one of the best. J.R. has extra copies of 2005-2009 newspapers for anyone who would like them.

           Membership Coordinator Rich Vavra-Musser reported that there 288 paid members. A dues reminder will go out soon to those who have not yet renewed. DeLora would like to send a second letter to Michigan NARP members in September.

           Meetings Coordinator Jim Wallington reported that the August 21 meeting will be at the WK Kellogg Airport, 15551 S Airport Way, Battle Creek MI 49015. Shuttles will be provided from the train station and to lunch at Clara’s on the River. The October 23 meeting will be at the Grand Rapids Amtrak station. Complete information about the September 25 meeting in St. Ignace is on the website. This first ever meeting in the UP will honor Indian Trails for 100 years of service. Members are urged to invite potential members, family and friends to attend and to make a mini-vacation out of the trip.

 Regional Reports

           Eastern: Jim Hinkins distributed a handout showing the refurbished cars to be deployed by Great Lakes Central for the proposed southeast Michigan commuter services. He has toured the cars and reports that they will have computer access and that wheelchair lifts are built into the equipment. The Woodward Light Rail project is on hold for the present. Clark Charnetsky added that tie replacement is taking place to allow speeds of 60 mph Howell to Ann Arbor.

           Western: John Langdon reported that the West Train group has received another $50.00 for marketing. $10,000 will be spent on promoting train travel from the Chicago area to the Grand Rapids ArtPrize festival Sep 22 to Oct 10. Pat Post added that the Blue Water Connections group received $40,000 for marketing.

           North:  Don Monteith expressed concern that travel center staff are not taking Amtrak materials. Wallington suggested contacting the local transit authorities that administer the centers. Don and John Langdon attended a recent Chicago conference and heard a presentation by a Japanese firm proposing to finance and build high-speed rail in the U.S.

 Committee Reports

          Barney Whittier reported that the nominating committee is completing a proccess for identifying a candidate for the Chair position. He is contacting current members of the Executive Committee to determine if they are willing to be on the slate. John DeLora reminded the group that the at-large positions will take on specific duties.

           Rich Vavra-Musser reported that the “widget” – now in version 2.0 – is on 28 websites and receiving 400 hits per day. The purpose of the widget is to create awareness of trains as a travel option to bring people into the community. Grand Rapids is on board and St. Joseph is pending. Rich is discussing providing the widget to All Aboard Ohio. NARP is considering its use in the New Orleans market. Rich is now working on an I-phone application.

 Old Business

      Dietrich Bergman gave an update on the status of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC). The House has approved enabling legislation for the project, but the Senate has balked. Senate Transportation Committee Chair, Jud Gilbert, appears reluctant to report out the current bill and may, indeed, seek to bar the state from committing to the project at all. Interestingly, plans have resurfaced for a proposed new rail tunnel. Senators from DeWitt and Rochester have asked what enhanced intermodal capacity would do to bridge traffic projections. DeLora suggested the a point is approaching at which MARP actively advocate for alternatives to the DRIC project. Bergman would like transportation and environmental advocacy groups to focus on expediting high-speed rail and integration with freight service across the state. Robert Patterson opined that access and safe movement of people and goods must be assured.

 New Business

      John DeLora announced an October 13 meeting in Grand Rapids to discuss the relationship between the state ARPs and NARP. Jim Wallington moved, Steve Sobel seconded, members approved, that John Langdon represent MARP at this meeting.

       J.R. Valderas asked for clarification on the date of the annual meeting. John Langdon moved, Barney Whittier seconded, members approved, re-scheduling the 2010 Annual Meeting for November 13.

Respectfully submitted:                                              Accepted:

Kay Chase                                                                   ____________________________

In the absence of Hugh Gurney, Secretary                  Chair