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Train Station General Manager Terminated

The only general manager for the Jamestown Gateway Train Station has been terminated.

On Friday, Lee Harkness was informed by the Downtown Jamestown Revitalization Corporation that he was fired as the station’s general manager. Harkness said he has until Monday to remove his belongings from the former Erie-Lackawanna Train Station.

”I was a little surprised,” Harkness said. ”I don’t really know many details. I didn’t expect it. It is a little tough to take with all the time and effort I have put into things to be terminated.”

The Downtown Jamestown Revitalization Corporation has been in control of the facility since it reopened in 2013. On Friday, it was announced National Comedy Center officials started leasing the train station as of Jan. 1. The wings of the train station will be used in the national attraction that will be based on the celebration of comedy.

Gregory Edwards, Downtown Jamestown Revitalization Corporation board member and Gebbie Foundation chief executive officer, said anyone who has worked or lived in Jamestown for more than a decade knows Harkness is a tremendous asset to the city. He said because the Downtown Jamestown Revitalization Corporation no longer operates the train station, there was no longer a need for the DJR to have a general manager.

Edwards added that National Comedy Center officials developed a business plan, which included the train station, and realized they could operate the train station with the staff they already employ.

”The DJR, the Gebbie Foundation and everyone in this city knows Lee (Harkness) has done a great job managing the train station,” Edwards said. ”He roles up his sleeves and works to turn ideas into a reality. I know a lot of folks, myself included, who will want to find opportunities where Lee can invest his skills in the city of Jamestown.”

Edwards said Harkness’ dismissal as train station general manager will be official the last day of February. He said at one point there were plans for Harkness to stay on as general manager for the first half of 2016. However, that changed after National Comedy Center officials changed the construction timeline.

”They analyzed, like any business would do, the most effective way to do things and discovered the existing National Comedy Center staff could manage the train station and integrate it into the National Comedy Center brand with the (Comedy Center Park) and the (Lucy Desi Museum and Center for Comedy),” Edwards said.

Another aspect affected by the change in who is operating the train station is the restoration project for Jamestown Street Railway Trolley Car No. 93. Tom Benson, National Comedy Center chairman, said those working on the restoration project Bob Johnston, Jamestown Street Railway Trolley Car No. 93 restoration project founder, and Jim Mitchener, Jamestown Street Railway Trolley Car No. 93 restoration project skilled carpenter will be able to stay in the train station until the east wing is needed for the National Comedy Center. He said, at one point, it seemed Johnston and Mitchener would have to leave the station by the end of June. However, with the redesign of the train station wings now not expected to take place this year, Benson said they can continue to work there throughout 2016.

”They are welcomed to stay there doing their thing until we need to use it for construction,” Benson said. ”I guess, as we sit here today, they would need to be out by Jan. 1, 2017. By no means are we displacing them until we need the space for construction.”

The trolley car project was first started in 1996 when Johnston was discussing his love of local history with a friend, Sam Lucariello. Lucariello mentioned his parents, Mauro and Harriet Lucariello, had an old Jamestown trolley car they used as a hunting camp near Dewittville. The family donated it to Johnston and the trolley car was moved back to Jamestown. For years, the trolley car sat in the city’s Parks Department garage before it was moved to the Jamestown Gateway Train Station in December 2013. Restoration work really started to move forward on the trolley car in 2014 with the assistance of Mitchener.

For more information about the project, visit jamestowntrolley.org/trolrest/index.html. Trolley restoration project donations can be made through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, either online by visiting crcfonline.org, or directly by specifically mentioning the trolley project on a check that can be mailed to the foundation at 418 Spring St., Jamestown, NY, 14701. For more information, the foundation can be reached by calling 661-3390.