Mystery of train depot ownership holds up Porterdale’s purchase of
By JAY JONES
Porterdale city officials have big plans for the
historic train depot on Hemlock Street, but their plans have hit a snag.
Before they can purchase it and renovate it, they must first find out who
owns it. –Photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
PORTERDALE — Only one thing
is keeping city officials from purchasing and restoring the historic train
depot on Hemlock Street – the rightful owners.
The city asked local attorney Errol Nichols to research property records
at the Newton County Courthouse to determine who owns the dilapidated
structure. Nothing was turned up after going back 50 years, so Nichols has
referred it back to the city, according to Porterdale City Manager Tom
“The city wants to acquire it, restore it because of its historical value
and make it available to the public,” Fox said. “The problem we keep
running into is that there’s not a clear ownership of it.”
Fox suspects the owner is either Norfolk-Southern Railroad, The Bibb
Company or Dan River Inc., but like the old building itself, property
records have quietly crumbled over time.
Built between 1890 and 1910, the building sits near the old city jail,
just behind the closed Lil’ Henry’s convenience store. One can see the old
bay window where the loading dock once was. Inside, the flooring is gone,
but the floor joists show the tongue-and-groove method used in its
Though ownership is in doubt, part of the building has been used by
Porterdale Public Works for years to store equipment and park trucks. On
one side of the building, a faded “Porterdale” sign is barely visible.
A proponent for saving the depot, Councilwoman Rebecca Roseberry said the
building could be a great asset for Porterdale as a community meeting area
and polling place. Another possibility for the old depot is to incorporate
it with a proposed multi-purpose trail along the Yellow River that could
connect the county’s Turner Lake Recreation Complex with Porterdale. The
depot also sits adjacent to 28 acres of riverfront property Porterdale
purchased last year from Dan River Inc. for a planned city park.
Roseberry said regardless of what the final plans are for the depot, the
structure is deteriorating and the city will need to act soon to acquire
the depot to save it.
“We better do something soon, or else there won’t be anything left to
save,” Roseberry said.
The matter has now been turned over to Porterdale City Attorney Timothy
Chambers to see what court procedures are available to resolve the
City seeks grant for renovations
PORTERDALE — City officials will seek a state grant to renovate the
old Porterdale train depot and construct a portion of a proposed
multi-purpose trail that would connect Porterdale with the Turner Lake
In a called session Monday, the Porterdale City Council voted unanimously
to move forward on a Transportation Enhancement Program grant through the
Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The specially called council
meeting was necessary because the deadline for the grant application is
The council agreed to hire The Center for Facilitating Community
Preservation and Planning in Covington to prepare the grant application at
a cost of $10,000. Local governments can seek up to $1 million in grant
money, but are obligated to pay 20 percent of the total grant received
with the GDOT paying the rest, according to Porterdale City Manager Tom
Fox called that 20 percent the crux of the argument for the council and
asked whether they would be willing to pay up to $200,000 if the grant is
awarded to Porterdale. The original grant proposal was just to build a
portion of the proposed trail, but the council included the train depot in
“Covington and Newton County are trying to make it a reality,” Fox said.
“If we can get this grant, it would benefit everyone, Newton County,
Covington and Porterdale.”
The amount to be sought would be determined before the grant application
is completed. Fox told the council the trail is estimated to cost $350,000
per mile, considering right of way purchases, materials and construction
cost. Porterdale applied for the same grant in 2000 for sidewalk
improvements and renovation of the train depot. At that time, estimates
for saving the turn-of-the-century depot were around $385,000, not
including cost to purchase the property, Fox said.
The proposed trail is coordinated by a citizens’ group, Multi-Use Trail
Advocates for a New Trail System (MUTANTS) and divided into three phases.
Newton County has applied for grant money to fund the first and second
phases going from Turner Lake down to Newton High School. Fox presented
the third phase of 2.5 miles for Porterdale to fund that runs from Newton
High to the Yellow River bridge at Hemlock and North Broad streets.
Councilman Bobby Hamby questioned why Porterdale would be responsible for
building a trail outside of city limits, including a foot bridge over the
Yellow River. Porterdale Mayor Paul Oeland said he had concerns over
responsibilities Porterdale would have or want to have over the trail in
unincorporated Newton County, leading up to Newton High.
“It makes no sense for us to build a trail in the county,” Oeland said.
In the end, the council agreed to move forward with the grant but directed
Fox to focus the grant application only for the stretch of the trail
within Porterdale city limits.
The GDOT will announce the grant recipients in March 2004. Governments
will then have two years to begin the projects. Under GDOT grant
guidelines, the city cannot begin negotiating for purchase of the train
depot until after it has been awarded the grant, Fox said.