Warren Co. terminates RR contract

QUEENSBURY — Saratoga & North Creek Railway was officially booted off Warren County’s rail line Friday.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors voted Friday to terminate the county’s contract with the railroad company, giving the company 30 days to get its equipment off of county property.

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said the move came after supervisors consulted with the legal counsel the county hired for assistance after SNCR’s owner announced in March that he was ending operations locally.

“At this point, Saratoga North Creek isn’t doing anything for us beneficially,” said Glens Falls 3rd Ward Supervisor Claudia Braymer.

Simpson said the county’s efforts to negotiate a termination were rebuffed. That included letters about “deficiencies” in the contract on SNCR’s part, to which the company did not respond, he said.

“They never responded to any of our communications,” he said.

Warren County believes SNCR owes it nearly $30,000 in revenue payments for ticket sales last fall and winter.

The contract also called for a guaranteed minimum $81,000 annual payment from SNCR to the county for use of the rail line.

While the move officially ends the business relationship, SNCR still has the legal right to use Warren County’s rails to get to the line it owns north of North Creek. But the company would have to negotiate fees to cross the county-owned tracks, which run from Hadley to North Creek. The town of Corinth, which owns the rails between Saratoga Springs and Corinth, also contracts with SNCR, and the status of Corinth’s relationship was unclear Friday afternoon.

It does, though, allow county leaders to start working toward figuring out what to do with the rail corridor going forward. Some have called for converting the tracks to a multi-use trail.

Simpson said county officials have heard from others who want to use the rail line, including one potential tourist train operator, and groups that want to use the stations as well.

The contract termination will also result in the county Department of Public Works having to assume the duties to maintain the rail line and crossing signals. SNCR had indicated it would stop doing those tasks when it had all of its equipment moved out this spring.

Ed Ellis, chief executive officer of Iowa Pacific Holdings, SNCR’s parent company, told county leaders in March that revenue problems had forced his company to halt operations. He blamed the problems on the county’s opposition to his storage of out-of-service tanker cars on the line he owns north of North Creek, known as the Sanford Lake Line. New York state, numerous environmental groups and many local residents also vehemently opposed the plan, and the cars were moved out earlier this spring.

Ellis’ company purchased it after agreeing to a contract to operate excursion and freight trains on the Warren County-owned tracks in 2011.

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