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Trolley a folly for city, Main Street

It’s a tangled tale of a trolley, and the city and Main
Street want to unknot it.

But until they work it out, the city can’t dispose of it, and recoup
whatever monies it may be worth.

The story begins five years ago, when Greg Russell. a
Tallahassee-based broker of surplus government equipment. offered to give to
the city of Apalachicola a used trolley, that he had picked up at auction.

In Nov. 2016, during the administration of Mayor Van Johnson,
the trolley was donated to Main Street and the organization embarked on a plan
to have it used for special events.

Insurance, however, was an issue, and Johnson asked that the
trolley be added to the city’s policy.

Ownership appeared to be worked out by the end of the year,
when Main Street’s Jim Bachrach reported to the city commissioners that a deal
had been struck in which Main Street would manage the trolley for the city, and
would reimburse the city for the insurance costs.

Both Main Street and the city’s names were on the title, and
in a later $2,000 grant application with Visit Florida, which was successfully
obtained, a letter from city officials indicated the city had ownership.

Over the years, the trolley was used less and less
frequently, although it did figure in several events, most notable the Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Under the administration of late Mayor Kevin Begos, the city
decided to add the trolley, which had been stored in the firehouse, to its list
of surplus property.

Commissioners authorized City Manager Travis Wade to enter
into an agreement with an auction house to dispose all of the property on the surplus
property list.

He needed the title, he had only a copy, and in the search
for it, it was learned that it contained the names of both the city and Main
Street and so each would have to sign off on it if the auction would go

That’s where the problem began.

Wade has reported to commissioners that Bachrach was
initially unwilling to sign off on the sale, and after a meeting with
Commissioner Despina George and Wade, sought to negotiate what Main Street
would be due in the event of a sale. He noted that Main Street had invested its
own funds in maintaining and operating the trolley.

Wade asked for invoices so all those costs could be factored
in, and Bachrach produced two invoices, valued at $12,000, both from Russell’s
company. Main Street Director Augusta West said last week it is her
understanding that these were in-kind contributions from Russell.

Meanwhile, the trolley sits at the auction house in Panama
City, after it broke down on the way in Mexico Beach and had to be towed the
rest of the way.

In his reports to the commission, Wade has said he has been
willing to negotiate a reasonable split of the proceeds, while noting that it
may be a matter for City Attorney Dan Hartman to consider. The commissioners
have been willing to remain patient, and left it up to Wade to work out.

Until that time, no auction can move forward, and Bachrach
has indicated in a letter that the intention all along has been a 50-50 split.

West said a meeting is in the works with she and Bachrach
conferring with Mayor Brenda Ash and Wade on the matter.

“We want to discuss it, we want to resolve it and more
forward,” she said. “There has been miscommunication and we want to clear all
that up. I hope we can resolve this and move forward.”

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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