In a well attended and hotly debated meeting Monday night, OTKMA voted unanimously to halt scrapping the car and to dismiss legal action following a controversial vote in May that divided merchants and prompted a call for the resignation of president Edward Kirkwood.
More than 30 members and interested citizens attended the three-hour meeting, which was monitored by Keller police and a city councilman, plus included news media.
The decision to keep the car was reached when board members met privately during a break after tempers flared. Some members tried twice to start proceedings to remove Kirkwood from office.
Supporters said they were not informed that a vote would be taken at the May meeting to salvage or sell the car, and they questioned whether Kirkwood was even a member of the merchants association at the time of the vote.
The car sits on blocks at the city’s train display in Old Town Keller next to the Union Pacific main line. A month ago, Kirkwood presided over the vote that led to hiring a contractor to cut the car apart for salvage. Some members complained that little had been done to improve the appearance of the car since it was placed on the display last fall and that it was unwise to use funds to preserve it. Some called it an eyesore.
An attempt to sell the car for $3,500 fell through, Kirkwood said.
Stairs, a steel panel and railings were removed over Memorial Day weekend, prompting a temporary restraining order against Kirkwood to prevent further damage. Ceiling fans, a motor and ductwork were said to have been removed from the inside.
On Tuesday following Memorial Day, cease and desist notices were posted on the car, along with a copy of the court order filed in Tarrant County District Court.
For now, the car will remain. A two-thirds vote will be needed to dispose of it or any other asset, and sufficient notice on the agenda must be given. Also, Kirkwood’s membership is now in good standing, and attorney fees for the court order are to be reimbursed.
After the meeting, merchants applauded the decision.
“It’s a win-win,” said quilt shop owner Becky Harness, who worked with attorneys to file the restraining order. “We get to keep our train.”
Kirkwood expects a better effort by the association to preserve the car, with hopes that it will attract business to Old Town Keller. He said it’s too early to consider what happens next.
“I think we will have a lot more commitment,” he said. “I think people will step forward and want to help out now.”
The merchants association paid $18,000 for the car, listed as an 87-foot Coleman in court documents, and moved it to the display in hopes of creating a train watching spot like those in nearby Saginaw and Grapevine, Harness said. Funds were raised through the city’s annual crawfish festival.
Harness was optimistic that the front end of the car that was dismantled by the scrapper could be restored, even though the cut pieces are probably gone.
“It’s still fixable,” she said.