V&T commission, foundation go separate ways

Amid complaints the V&T Railroad Foundation is keeping too much of the revenue it raises, the foundation and Railway Commission have agreed to go their separate ways.

The issue boiled over earlier this summer when commission members Ron Allen and John Tyson told foundation director Janice Ayres they don't think the commission has been getting all the money it should and, in fact, has given the foundation more than it has received.

An angry Ayres responded with letters saying the foundation, formed 18 years ago to raise money to reconstruct the railroad, had voted unanimously "to remove itself as the fundraising arm of the commission and relinquish this function to the members of the commission."

She sent a separate letter demanding an explanation of Allen's comment during a May meeting that $50,000 contributed by the Casazza family had been spent without foundation approval. According to Ayres, that money was "earmarked funds to the foundation and could not be released without written permission from the foundation."

Commission Chairman Dwight Millard tried to mediate the dispute for three months but finally responded this month with a letter asking Ayres for an accounting of foundation fundraising.

"In no way am I looking for anything but a final, accurate accounting of funds raised and expenses incurred by the foundation," he wrote.

Ayres said she has agreed to provide Millard with an accounting of funds raised and spent. And she, like Millard, said both groups need to get past the rancor and get on with work to complete the V&T between Virginia City and Carson City.

"The only money we've actually really received is the $50,000 from the (Sierra Nevada) Realtors and the $50,000 from the Casazza family," said Allen. "We gave them money, more than that," he said referencing a document from the Carson City finance director's office showing four $30,000 grants from the commission's account to the foundation.

Tyson said there was a major fundraiser at Tamarack Junction in 2002 at which he said Ayres raised $45,000.

"We didn't get any of that money," he said.

Tyson said the foundation's Art Reflections program several years ago also raised money but that, "we have no idea what they raised."

Ayres said the Art Reflections show didn't make money.

Tyson said there are also no records of numerous smaller donations to the V&T for merchandise sold at different events, and subscriptions to the foundation's magazine.

"It's our stuff that we buy with our money to keep going," Ayres said. "They said we'll let you have 20 percent and we'll take 80 percent. I said wait a minute, we've got to have more than that."

Ayres said those funds are the foundation's operating money: "That money doesn't belong to the commission. It belongs to the foundation."

Ayres pointed to the money from the Realtors' association and Casazza family as well as a $100,000 grant over two years from NV Energy. She said the foundation also convinced the state Tourism Commission to grant the project

$1 million and the V&T license plates that provide the commission with an ongoing stream of revenue.

Tyson said the tourism grant actually lapsed and that then-Carson Mayor Ray Masayko and V&T project coordinator Kevin Ray got it back by going to the commission in Las Vegas and making their pitch.

Millard, however, said the foundation should get credit for the license plate legislation.

Ayres said the foundation will expand its efforts to include other fundraising projects - including the proposed Chinese Workers' Museum of America - but also will continue efforts to help the V&T reconstruction.

To that end, she said she has begun the process of trying to get a multimillion-dollar grant from the Reynolds Foundation to build the Carson City V&T depot. In addition, she said the foundation soon will premier a DVD video designed to help sell and support the V&T project. That video was created with part of the Realtors' association donation.

"We're still gong to be talking fondly about the railroad, working on the railroad," she said.


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