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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

Genoa debates trolley museum

GENOA - A proposal to renovate a century-old train depot into a trolley museum here with tracks that would run around the village was met by criticism and concerns from residents last night.

Friends of the Interurban, the group behind the plan, met with civic leaders and citizens to field questions on its cost and possible inconveniences. The group is seeking a memorandum of understanding between the Village of Genoa, Clay Township, and the Genoa Firemen's Association.

Mike Driver, who has lived in Genoa for 60 years, cautioned village council members from becoming involved in what he called an unneeded project.

“I have lived here because it's a bedroom community, and it's pretty quiet,” Mr. Driver said. “And I'd like it to stay that way, so I'd hate to see the village get into something it can't get out of.”

Other residents voiced concerns over the village needing to pay for maintaining the museum with public money.

Charley Sheets, president of the Waterfront Electric Railway Museum in Grand Rapids, Ohio, is looking to move the museum to Genoa because of its historical significance. The museum has suffered in recent years because it has been cut off from the rest of downtown Grand Rapids. Its collection of two engines and five trolley cars, track, poles, and other electric railway equipment can easily be transported and installed in Genoa at no cost to the village, Mr. Sheets said.

Ellen Bergman, a member of Friends of the Interurban and teacher for the Genoa Area Schools, said the museum would act as a catalyst for downtown economic development and spur tourism.

“We believe that there are $353 million [dollars] of tourism coming into Ottawa County, and that we should be able to get some of that money,” Ms. Bergman said.

Genoa Mayor Joe Verkin said he was undecided on the proposal and needs time to examine costs for the village.

“They're going to need utilities - water and sewer - so there are a lot of unanswered questions,” the mayor said.

Not all residents were opposed to the plan.

“I'd hate to see this go somewhere else, when we can have it in our own backyard,” said Mark Williams of Genoa. “I know there are a lot of questions about noise and maintenance, but this definitely could be a good thing for the village.”



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