Additional taxpayers’ money is being sought to pay for the upkeep of the newest transportation hub in western Massachusetts.
Springfield’s Union Station needs an additional $146,000 from the city to avoid operating in the red for the first year following its reopening last June after a $95 million restoration.
This year’s city budget included $750,000 to help pay to operate Union Station, which is owned by the Springfield Redevelopment Authority.
Mayor Domenic Sarno has said he views the city’s subsidy for Union Station as an economic development expense.
"But, our whole goal is to make (Union Station) self-sustaining moving forward," Sarno said when Union Station was reopened last year.
Federal and state funds paid for the restoration and redevelopment of Union Station into a transportation center for train and bus passengers. Originally built in 1926, Union Station had been closed since the 1970s.
Chris Moskal, executive director of the SRA, said it will take time for Union Station to become financially self-sufficient from the rents paid by tenants in the building.
"It was actually anticipated that in the first 2-3 years it would require additional funding," said Moskal
71 percent of the available space in Union Station is currently leased, which is in line with projections, according to Moskal.
"We are right on there, and we have a couple of other interested parties for the remaining space in the building on the mezzanine level and a portion of the second floor," said Moskal.
The two biggest expenses at Union Station are for security and maintenance.
"Security is number one," said Moskal. " People need to feel safe and we want that. The second priority for us is to always have a clean facility."
M.J. Norton Security of Springfield has a contract with the SRA to provide security services at Union Station. The building is also patrolled by Springfield police, state police, and Amtrak police.
Moskal said the maintenance contractor, Kleenrite of Ludlow, sends a crew in every night to scrub the inside and outside of the building.
"They provide, in my estimation, the cleanest facility I have ever seen not only in transportation, but anywhere in the downtown," said Moskal.
The number of people passing through Union Station every day is expected to increase beginning next month when new high-speed rail service is scheduled to begin between Springfield and New Haven, Connecticut.
"CTRail is scheduled to open in the middle of June so we are very very excited about that," said Moskal.
In addition to the subsidy from city taxpayers, Union Station also receives an annual payment of $500,000 from MGM, which later this year will open a resort casino a few blocks from the station.
Sarno is asking the City Council to transfer the additional $146,000 for Union Station from the city’s “free cash” account, which is unspent money from the last fiscal year.