PRINCETON — Good water systems, sewer access and a well-educated workforce are important ingredients for a city’s economic growth, but good packaging is essential, too. That’s when the term “beautification” comes into play.

From Stafford Drive to Mercer Street, city officials and workers, business owners and volunteers are working to beautify Princeton. One recent boost to these efforts came this week when a local project was included among $4.9 million in Transportation Enhancement grants announced by Gov. Joe Manchin.

Princeton will receive $225,000 to restore and relocate the railroad caboose at city hall to the Railroad Museum at the end of Mercer Street. The caboose, Virginia Railroad Caboose Number 308, was donated to the city by the Norfolk-Southern Corporation and dedicated on Jan. 27, 1991.

In the late 1980s, former Mayor Emory J. Reasor urged then-City Manager Gary Christie to request one of the railroad corporation’s surplus cabooses.

When the new Princeton Railroad Museum was in the design phase, architect Todd Boggess suggested moving the caboose as part of the museum’s long-term plan, said City Manager Wayne Shumate.

“We applied for a federal transportation grant for restoration and relocation,” Shumate said. “First we have to develop a contract to outline the parameters of the grant and request proposals from architectural firms.”

The estimated cost of moving the caboose and restoring it ranges from $75,000 to $90,000, Shumate said. When the process of securing designs and bids is completed, the move could take place in Spring 2008.

Remaining grant money will be used to construct sidewalks along Mercer Street between 6th Street and Walnut Street.

Mayor Dewey Russell and Vice Mayor Pat Wilson said when their new terms started that encouraging more businesses to come into Princeton was among their goals. The city council is exploring the idea of starting a community improvement commission.

As part of the beautification effort, traffic islands on Stafford Drive and Ingleside Road have received new flowers and other landscaping. Decorative banners have been put up from Courthouse Road to the lower end of Mercer Street; lower Mercer Street has also received new light poles.

More Mercer Street businesses are working to improve their facades. Local business owner Elizabeth Osborne said that both she and her neighbors have been working to give their enterprises a fresh look.

“We’ve just been busy people up here,” Osborne said. “Lots of things are going on up and down the street. We’re going to make it yet.”

The Caboose Restoration Committee consisted of Perry Mooney, Jack Scott, George Johnson and Paul McManaway. City employees, Norfolk Southern personnel, business owner Hobert Stewart, the local historical society and railroad association aided the effort as well.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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