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Making Tracks

City works with Cooper-Young to maintain art trestle.

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Despite support from council members, the city doesn't want to own Cooper-Young's most recognized landmark.

During a meeting in March, the Cooper-Young Community Association (CYCA) asked the city to take ownership of the railroad trestle over Cooper, which is decorated with the illuminated facades of landmarks in the neighborhood. CYCA members said they would retain ownership of the art itself and maintain it, but they could not afford the post-9/11 insurance costs. At the time, council members asked both the UrbanArt Commission and city staffers what they could do to help. The answer, given May 4th at the Personnel, Intergovernmental, and Annexation Committee meeting of the City Council, was funding and a reduction in the amount of insurance CYCA was required to carry.

"The art could fall under our maintenance conservation program," Carissa Hussong, executive director of the UrbanArt Commission, told the committee, "but the problem is that the artwork is connected to the trestle. In discussions with the administration, there was reluctance and concerns about taking the trestle property itself."

City attorney Sara Hall added that the city could also not legally help pay the insurance unless it was their property.

After 9/11, insurance costs for the trestle skyrocketed to $4,000 a year. With other costs for electricity, light bulbs, and small maintenance projects, the trestle cost the CYCA about $5,000 last year.

In an effort to help the group, the city's general services division said it would lower the amount of liability insurance the CYCA is required to carry on the trestle from its current rate of $2 million.

"They dropped it to $1 million," Marc Long, president of the CYCA, said later. "We thought we'd get a break in our insurance, but we don't really. It would be better if we went from $1 million to a half-million dollars."

Because the association's insurance is not up for renewal until December, they cannot earn savings from the reduction until then. Representatives from the city and CYCA say they will discuss the situation again then.

The good news for the CYCA comes in the $5,000 currently earmarked for the project in next year's budget.

Long called the funding and the insurance compromise a good short-term solution.

"It's a good thing. We have established communication lines with the city," he said. "Tom Marshall is very supportive. Janet Hooks is 150 percent behind us. It's all positive, but we're still worried about the long term."

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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