V&T Commission: We need sustainable income
November 2, 2009
MINDEN – Facing slumping sales tax revenues and a weak economy, at least two members of the V&T Railway Commission said the commission needs to look into the future to make sure the railroad can survive financially.
Chairman Dwight Millard said during a commission meeting Monday he was concerned because of the shrinking amounts of money available to the commission.
“I’m starting to worry about us sustaining ourselves,” he said.
He was joined by former chairman and commissioner Bob Hadfield who said he too was concerned about the declining sales tax revenues.
In Carson City, Millard said the sales tax dedicated to the V&T goes to retire the bonds sold to help finance initial construction. He said that doesn’t generate more for the railroad operations, just money to pay off the bonds.
“I’ve always been told if push comes to shove, we would have to raise the room tax in Carson City,” Millard said.
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He said they need to start talking raising some money for operations from those who will benefit from the tourism the V&T brings to western Nevada.
“The commission needs to start thinking about billing the counties,” he said.
Commission Treasurer Ron Allen agreed, adding that the legislation creating the commission “says we need to bill the counties.”
When fully operational, the V&T is expected to create a destination draw for tourists from around the world which will benefit not only Storey, Lyon and Carson City but Douglas County, Washoe County and Lake Tahoe.
Millard said the first task is to find out exactly what the commission’s financial prospects are and what its options for raising operating capital are.
The discussion came during a meeting in Minden where commissioners celebrated the end of the V&T’s inaugural season. The final trains ran Nevada Day and, throughout the fall, all were sold out.
Next summer, Millard said, the V&T is planning to run trains four days a week for 24 weeks – a total of 96 trains. Plans are for Thursday and Friday diesel trains and Saturday and Sunday steam trains through the summer.
They estimate that will bring anywhere from 14,000 to a maximum of 20,000 tourists to the area.
But commissioners also announced that the train runs aren’t finished for this season. They said trains will run the first three Saturdays in December as well as Friday, Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving.