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Santa Fe City Council OKs Center for Tourists

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The resolution calls for the visitors center to be at the Santa Fe Depot, which could push Santa Fe Railway out of the depot

A new city-run visitors center will soon be up and running at the Santa Fe Depot under a resolution approved Wednesday by the Santa Fe City Council.

The measure was first introduced just two weeks ago. It has generated some controversy, because the depot’s current leaseholder, Santa Fe Southern Railway, has expressed displeasure with the city’s actions.

After a fairly lengthy discussion, the City Council approved the resolution 5-2. Councilors Patti Bushee and Chris Calvert dissented.

Bushee said the city was moving in “a steamrolling direction” and suggested that mediation with Santa Fe Southern would be more productive.

Bushee also complained about a lack of public airing. The measure was previously approved by the city’s Finance and Public Works committees, though with little or no discussion and no public comment session.

“I just thought this was not timely. I thought there was a chance to make this come out differently than the approach this is taking,” she said.

The resolution directs the city staff to negotiate a lease for the Santa Fe Depot with the Santa Fe Railyard Community Corporation, the nonprofit group that runs the Railyard, and work out agreements with Santa Fe Southern Railway and the state Department of Transportation, which operates the Rail Runner, for use of the adjacent railroad corridor to ease the way for Rail Runner trains to park there.

The Santa Fe Depot is owned by the city but managed by the Railyard corporation. Santa Fe Southern rents the depot on a month-to-month basis.

The resolution includes a provision allowing Santa Fe Southern to sublease part of the depot. But Carol Raymond, president and general manager of the railway, has said the space is too small to accommodate both the city and Santa Fe Southern’s needs, among other issues.

Raymond has said Santa Fe will have to compete with Santa Fe Southern for the depot lease. The city’s resolution stipulates that the Santa Fe Convention and Visitors Bureau set up shop at the depot by May 1.

Mayor David Coss, a sponsor of the resolution, has previously said that city officials have more or less hit a wall trying to resolve the outstanding issues with Santa Fe Southern.

Councilor Rosemary Romero said the resolution “will bring everybody to the table on a fair ground and negotiate in good faith.”

“To me, a negotiation is what we are encouraging, and in that negotiation will be the opportunity for all the parties to bring their issues to the table,” Romero said.

Calvert noted that the state is considering cutting Rail Runner services, especially on tourist-rich weekends, and a Railyard visitors center might not be as useful as expected.

“Are we chasing after a solution that might somewhat dry up, and are we disturbing an existing business that is already established?” he said.