WATERVILLE — City councilors on Wednesday will consider selling the Old 470 steam locomotive off College Avenue to New England Steam Co. for $25,000, keeping the historic engine in Maine.
The company estimates that restoration would be about $500,000 more than the city’s $1 million calculation made last year, City Manager Michael Roy said Monday.
“They would restore it and it would probably end up being moved to their location in the Ellsworth area,” Roy said.
The city last year put out a request, through its 470 Committee, for proposals to restore the engine.
Over the years, the engine has deteriorated because of exposure to harsh weather, unsupervised visitors, vandals and thieves. Some work was done to spiff the engine up, but efforts to raise money to restore and preserve the engine were unsuccessful.
The city received six proposals from places such as New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and interviewed three groups. Besides Roy, committee members are City Engineer Greg Brown, Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan, Councilor Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1, and Jack Sutton of Belgrade.
Roy said he believes New England Steam had the best proposal, and keeping the engine in Maine was part of why the plan was attractive. None of the other proposals included keeping it in Maine.
“Our goals have been to have it refurbished and have it remain in this area but, of course, I think we realized that may have been unrealistic to have it remain in this area,” he said. “We did not see the city has having the resources to dedicate to the repair of the steam engine.”
But Stubbert disagreed with Roy and said that the city needs to do another search. New England Steam wants to take Old 470 apart, move it, restore it and use it for excursions, Stubbert said.
Disassembling the locomotive and moving it will be very costly and could cost about $3 million to restore it, but New England Steam does not have that kind of money, he said.
“The last thing in the world we need for that engine is to take it apart and leave it that way,” Stubbert said. “I’d rather keep it unrestored than give it to somebody who would abuse it or have it end up as scrap. It belongs to the people of Waterville. It should be up to the people of Waterville to decide what happens to it.”
Roy said New England Steam Co. officials have a genuine interest in restoring and preserving Old 470.
“I think they are real knowlegeable about steam engines and the restoration work that would have to happen,” he said.
Stubbert maintains there’s no urgency in selling it or doing anything.
“It’s been sitting there for over 50 years and another four or five or 10 years isn’t going to make that much difference,” he said.
Richard Glueck of New England Steam did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.
The Old 470 was the last steam engine used for passenger service on the Maine Central Railroad and made its final trip through Waterville, from Portland to Bangor, on June 13, 1954.
It was built in 1924 by American Locomotive Co. and given to the city Oct. 28, 1962, as a gift by Maine Central Railroad on its 100th birthday.
City councilor will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the The Center in downtown Waterville and must take three votes on the proposal. They may take one or two votes Wednesday.
As part of the proposed sale agreement, the company would pay the city the $25,000 within a 24-month period. During that time, company officials would be allowed to inspect the locomotive but not be able to disassemble or move it until the full price is paid.
The city would be responsible for installing a fence around the engine, as people climbing on it could get hurt, according to Roy.
In other matters Wednesday, councilors will consider voting to declare a vacancy in Ward 6, as Councilor Eliza Mathias has resigned. They also will consider accepting a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant from the state Department of Economic & Community Development for Bragdon Farms, a company that would make hay logs in the former Harris Baking Co. building. Councilors must take three votes on the proposal and may take one or two votes Wednesday.
The council also is slated to consider approving a contract with CATV, which tapes council meetings and airs them on Time Warner Channel 7. The city is being asked to pay an increase of $50 per meeting, from the current $125 per meeting to $175.
Brad Jackson of FirstPark is scheduled to make a presentation about the park.
Amy Calder — 861-9247