At the end of Tuesday’s Pulaski Town Council meeting, Robert Strenz stepped up to address the council and offer them a chance at having a caboose added to the Raymond F. Ratcliffe Memorial Transportation Museum.
Strenz, a Pennsylvania transplant, local investor and former member of Pulaski’s Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said to the council that he found a caboose at auction on a government website, bid on it, and won.
Strenz said he thought the caboose, which is currently at Southwest Virginia Community College in Cedar Bluff, would make a good addition to the museum and be a point of interest for tourists.
“I thought that if the town had any interest in it, I’d be willing to pay for it, donate it to the town and try to get it here in Pulaski,” Strenz said. “In the meantime, we’re in the process of trying to find out what the costs are to transport it. It’s about a 100 mile run from there to here.”
Strenz advised the need for a crane to move the caboose and then transportation to get it to Pulaski. He said that, “Preliminary numbers look like it could run somewhere between $5000-$10,000 to get it here.”
Strenz said the caboose has a deck around it, was used to sell items at college events and has a half-bath and electrical services in it, bringing up the possibility of renovating and renting it out as an overnight stay for tourists.
Councilman H.M. Kidd expressed interest in this idea, saying “I’ve actually stayed in one. It’s really neat. I like the concept of it. We could probably make a little money on it, really.”
Strenz said that his wife is an interior decorator, adding, “I’m willing to take that on as a personal project. I think there’s enough people that are interested in this area, that I could get friends and people I know to donate money to put towards fixing this thing up.”
Councilman Jamie Radcliffe joked, “You couldn’t remodel it and let us spend a night in it and if we like it, we’ll do it?” to general laughter.
“I think this is an opportunity that we should take and try,” said Vice-Mayor Joseph Goodman. “I think that this is something we should look at and move forward with.”
Strenz asked, “Is there a certain amount that you’re comfortable with?” referring to how much the town would be willing to spend on the caboose. “It’d be nice to know there’s a certain area of money where I can say, OK, ‘I’ve got X amount of dollars to get this here and get it figured out.’”
Met with some caution and mentions of budget cuts by council members, Strenz reiterated that the cost was estimated to be about $5,000 to $10,000 and added, “If there’s more than that, I have to eat it, and I’m pretty comfortable with that risk. I don’t see myself coming back and asking the town for a nickel as far as renovating it. It’s in pretty decent shape. It’s not some old rust bucket like you see in the Radford yard.”
“I don’t want to have anything to do with the day-to-day running,” he told the council, “I just want to have a way for the town to make some money. I can’t imagine renting it out for less than $50-$65 bucks a night for anyone who wanted to stay in a decent place.”
Councilman Greg East replied, “I like the idea. What I like even more is that you as a private citizen have stepped forward about this. My question would be, is there any way we could zero in on the cost?”
Goodman said, “If there’s a way they can give us two weeks until our next meeting, that would give us a chance to speak to our finance director to see what we have. We support the idea.”
Strenz said, “I think as long as I pay them, they’re happy. It was a choice I made on my own.”
Mayor Jeff Worrell told Strenz, “Thank you for your efforts.”
Posted on May 14, 2013