The Union City Council is taking steps to determine the future of the seven buildings at the town’s old U.S. Forest Service Ranger Station.

The city council agreed at a work session Monday to form a committee that will evaluate options for the ranger station and then make a recommendation on which course to pursue.

The ranger station, near the northwest edge of Union, was built in 1937 and deeded to the City of Union in 1993. The complex’s buildings include a four-bedroom house, a three-bedroom house, a two-bedroom house, an old oil storage building and two detached garages.

The city rents the houses and two of the other buildings are used by the city’s public works department.

The city council will have greater flexibility in what path it ultimately pursues if it is granted a straight deed for the ranger station by the federal government. The present deed has many restrictions that make it difficult for the city to do even basic maintenance work.

City Administrator Doug Wiggins noted before windows can be replaced the city must send a request for permission to do this to the National Parks Service, which has 45 days to respond. Quick responses are rare.

“Anytime you do something, there is a 45-day delay,” Wiggins said. “Such delays hinder maintenance of the buildings.”

Wiggins, at the request of the council, wrote a letter to the National Parks Service in January requesting a straight deed. The National Parks Service has not yet responded to the letter.

Wiggins said the ranger station is becoming a financial liability for the city, since the cost of maintaining it is greater than the money it brings in. The only revenue it generates is rent from its homes. The cost of upkeep is expensive because it must retain “historic building standards” according to its deed.

The city council has discussed a number of options for the ranger station at previous meetings, including converting the three houses into vacation rentals and adding sites for RVs. The council has also discussed creating a small business startup at the site. The ranger station buildings could be rented temporarily to those who need a place to open a new business before they can afford to move to another site.

“It could be a business incubator,” Wiggins said.

Converting the ranger station into a community center is still another option councilors have expressed interest in. Wiggins said it could be renovated to serve as a site for family reunions or other gatherings and possibly include a commercial grade kitchen.

The committee’s members will include a city councilor, a member of the Union Chamber of Commerce and a member of the city’s history commission.

See complete story in Wednesday's Observer