West Point council discusses re-opening West Point Depot as venue

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

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West Point City Council discussed ways to re-open the West Point Depot for rentals during their work session on Tuesday. 

“We have discussed the depot in the past. All of you are aware that we’ve had issues with rentals there,” said Ed Moon, West Point City manager. 

Moon said that crowd control can be an issue at the venue, especially when alcohol is served at events. The city has halted rentals after December of 2023 to figure out what to do with the space. 

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Legally, if an event will have alcohol a West Point Police officer must be present. However, the presence of a staff member or law enforcement officer has not deterred incidents from happening. In 2022, an altercation between family members at an event held at the depot led to a man being shot and killed. 

The council voted to raise the price of rentals after the property ran at a deficit of $102,224.58. The prices went down to $808 for the weekend rate, $352 for weekdays and $156 for weeknights. This was in hopes of increasing revenue for the venue. 

Moon offered four potential options to move forward with the depot. 

The first option Moon gave was for the city to continue to operate the venue but ban alcohol with exemptions for certain events, like weddings. 

“Even with that, we would need to increase the rate to cover the cost of the facility including staffing and operational costs of the facility. So that would include having a staff person that was not a police officer,” Moon said. 

Another option would be to privatize the facility, allowing a service to operate the facility and rent it out as they see fit. The city would potentially go into the agreement of tenancy with the third party.  

The third and fourth options would keep the city as the operator but use the space to create a “new vision” for the space, according to Moon. He suggested using the space for city-sponsored entertainment like farmers or artist markets. Another suggestion was to use the space as a business incubator, where small businesses could operate for short periods to encourage development. 

“At the bare minimum, the city should be breaking even,” said Councilmember Jerry Ledbetter. “There could be every weekend an event here during the summer and get better use out of a historic facility…we need to keep it up and make sure that we don’t lose it.”

He added, “We’ve lost enough historic structures around here. So whatever we can do to save it while at the same time not burdening the taxpayers of our city.”

Councilmember Gloria Marshall agreed that the facility should remain with the city saying, “Number one is that the city should continue to maintain the facility and maybe increase the price. Because if you eliminate it, it’s gonna eliminate a lot of people not being able to have a wedding, not having a prom. I mean cut out the alcohol if necessary.”

Most of the council members agreed that the running of the facility should remain the job of the city and that prices should be raised to increase the revenue. Council member Kevin Patrick asked if some hybrid solution could be reached, where the city could continue renting it while using it for city-sponsored events. 

“Without full-time staff and a focus on this type of facility, it’s hard for us to manage. I mean, it’s every Monday after an event on Saturday, and we’re fighting this battle with people that rent the depot, it is a constant problem in the city,” Moon said. 

The city manager said he would come back to the council with some numbers on rent and the cost for a full-time staff person, as well as put together some hybrid models for the space.