SHAMOKIN - A local tattoo parlor may not be razed after all as part of a railroad safety project.

City council was following a proposal based on discussions with the railroad's operating authority to take custody of Sterling Tattoo, 515 N. Market St., through eminent domain. It was to be demolished as part of a rail crossing upgrade. The Joint Rail Authority, a division of SEDA-COG, has since updated an alternative proposal that will allow the building to remain untouched.

Should city council choose the latter, JRA would take ownership of the municipal parking lot behind Sterling Tattoo - between the railroad tracks and Shamokin Creek, parallel to Water Street - and lease it back to Shamokin for $1 annually.

"The JRA will cover all costs associated with a new exit which requires construction of a new crossing and roadway out to Market Street north of the railroad. The lease agreement would cover the new 'private crossing,' which is not subject to PennDOT or PUC oversight," Jeffery K. Stover, JRA executive director, writes in a letter sent to the city in October.

An engineering firm it hired agrees with JRA that it owns a majority of the lot; the city claims full ownership.

JRA operates the Shamokin Valley Railroad, a 27-mile stretch between Sunbury and Mount Carmel. It has already begun a plan to upgrade rail crossings throughout Shamokin with the installation of large cantilevers and flashing lights at Walnut Street near Weis Markets. All crossings east of there are to be upgraded.

Simple flashing lights are proposed for Sixth and Eighth streets, respectively. A system with flashing lights and a single mast is expected for Market Street, JRA officials previously told The News-Item. It is expected to be smaller compared to the Walnut Street crossing. However, the exit is in the way of where a mast is planned to be installed.

JRA had previously offered $40,000 to Shamokin toward the cost to gain ownership of the building and demolish it. City council pursued this option because it was receiving the funds to do so. A 3-1 vote in August approved the first reading of an ordinance authorizing the pursuit of eminent domain in county court. Councilman William Milbrand was opposed.

A second reading that would have given final approval to the plan had never been brought to vote.

According to the proposed ordinance, the crossing is no longer considered safe by either JRA or the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission because of how closely situated the tattoo parlor is to the railroad tracks, with the parking lot exit in between.

The option to build a crossing east of Market Street, inside the parking lot, and create a new exit on the north side of the tracks had already been discussed. However, this option would have come at a cost to the city, JRA had originally said. The updated proposal removes that financial burden to the city in exchange for ownership of the lot.

"The complexities of the Market Street crossing are solvable. The JRA's offer to build the parking lot exit (if necessary should the building not be razed), paired with a 'free lease' of the parking lot land, will resolve all outstanding issues without any cost to the city," Stover wrote in the letter.

Dave Lauer, who owns the building with Amanda Miller, had opposed eminent domain. He could not be reached for comment.