el paso tx — The Railroad and Transportation Museum of El Paso is at a crossroads. The museum board of directors claims the City of El Paso is evicting them, after thirteen years of calling the downtown location home.
"We've been bringing this story to more than 10,000 people every year for the last several years," said museum director Prince McKenzie.
The museum collects and preserves thousands of historical pieces and antiques.
"If it hadn't been for the railroads, El Paso would just be a pimple in the state. We wouldn't be anything, so why can't you preserve the history of what transpired here,” said a former railroad worker Ernesto Mendoza.
"You have to wonder where the commitment is from city government to cultural affairs," said museum attorney Terry Hammond.
According to the museum board of directors, the city came to the group and told them to move out of the front room of the building because a coffee shop had plans to move in. The museum packed up their things and moved everything into the main room. But then the city put a lease sign back up out front, and for weeks there has been no sign of a coffee shop. Now the museum's frustration grows as the city has asked them to move out completely.
"The city begins to complain that the proper part of the museum is too stacked p with things because it was moved from here to there. And they needed to vacate this space by 5pm today," said Hammond.
The city was allowing the museum to stay rent free. The museum says that changed because of the future increase in property value, it is was in the best interest for the city to start renting it out to paying customers.
"I don't know if a city government can be dishonest but all I know is there a lease sign up and we were told there was a tenant ready to move in," said Hammond. “So now we have no museum at all. Tourists are coming by, school children, citizens of El Pas and they're being told the museum is closed."
The City of El Paso responded saying:
"The museum was never authorized to use the additional space they began to take over. The City of El Paso is currently working on a revised lease for the smaller area where the train is located. We realize what an asset the railroad museum is to El Paso and we want to make sure we are steadfast in providing a solution."