Campaign to reinstall lights on Dowagiac depot meets goal

Published 9:21 am Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A local man’s bright idea to restore the outdoor lighting on downtown’s historic train depot is one step closer to reality.

Thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, Dowagiac’s Ron Leatz reached the goal for his recent “Light Up the Depot” fundraiser, collecting $5,312 in donations. The money will go toward reinstalling the 1,700 decorative light bulbs atop Dowagiac’s train station, located on Depot Drive across from city hall.

The man actually surpassed his goal of $5,212 for the repairs, thanks to a surge in donations last month, he said. People contributed around $1,000 to the campaign in March, the largest amount in a single month since he began fundraising in October, Leatz said.

“Out of the $1,000 we collected, we had seven donations of $100,” he said.

The extra money will go toward the installation of additional lights on the train station, possibly on the building’s chimney, Leatz said.

The Dowagiac man — a member of the Michigan Association for Railroad Passengers who volunteers as the “host” of the local train station — has been raising money for the repair work since the fall. Leatz was responsible for the initial “Light Up the Depot” drive in 2010, where he raised $8,000 from the community to install seasonal lighting on the depot’s rooftop.

The city was forced to remove the lighting from the building last year, though, due to damage with the cabling.

Crews with Professional Holiday Decorators, the company that originally installed the depot lights, will install around 2,200 feet of new wire for the lights, and will use the LED light bulbs originally placed on the building, which remain in good shape, Leatz said.

“We have lost only one light bulb from the 2010 installation,” he said.

While the fixtures will look the same, the city will keep the lights on longer than before, Leatz said. Instead of turning them only during on daylight saving time, city officials plan on having them on throughout the year, which should only cost around $100 a year in electricity, Leatz said.

“If they [the lights] are already on the roof, why not have them on all year,” he said.

Professional Holiday Decorators will also provide two years worth of free maintenance once the lights are installed, Leatz said. The Dowagiac man said he expects work to begin in September.