RFRHA OKs spending plan
The Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority approved its 2000 budget Wednesday. Expenses total $584,550, while revenues, at this point at least, amount to a whopping $14,000.According to RFRHA Executive Director Tom Newland, the shortfall is purely an accounting convention. The necessary revenue to cover expenses will come from the seven local governments that are members of RFRHA.Upvalley governments, – Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County – will carry the burden of support. Aspen will kick in 27 percent of the total with $159,582; Snowmass Village, $92,358 and Pitkin County will provide 24 percent with $142,630.Basalt is slated to put up $7,014; Eagle County, $42,087; Carbondale, $28,058 and Glenwood Springs, $112,818.In the two years RFRHA has been in existence, the member governments have come through in the clutch. But they do have an incentive. “If they don’t pay their share, they can’t vote,” Newland said.Major expenditures next year will be Newland’s salary of $117,000 annually, legal services amounting to $115,000, and $50,000 for weed control along the 35-mile rail corridor between Glenwood Springs and Woody Creek. Newland’s assistant, Noel Huff, will make $40,000 next year.Also included on the expenditure side is $100,000 which will have to be paid back to Sanders Ranch if an appeal by A&K Salvage to the Surface Transportation Board is successful. A&K is appealing a ruling by the board to railbank the corridor and exempt RFRHA from providing rail service on demand until the future use of the corridor is decided.Sanders Ranch developer George Hanlon lost a suit over a railroad crossing into his project and settled with RFRHA, paying the authority $100,000 to cover litigation costs. But if the A&K appeal is successful, RFRHA has to pay that money back.”Both [RFRHA attorney] Bob Noone and I think it’s extremely unlikely the appeal will win,” Newland said.The RFRHA board’s budget discussion generated some debate on a $21,000 expenditure to pay a Washington D.C. lobbyist. While some members questioned the cost, Chairman George Roussos pointed out such a person is critical, especially since the authority is expecting about $100 million in federal matching grants to build a commuter rail system.”I believe it’s critical to have a lobbyist,” Newland said.RFRHA pays its lobbyist, Pete Slone, $8,000 a month – money that has come from the city of Aspen. Aspen now wants the other governments to share the expense, and budgeted $42,000 to cover nine months of Slone’s salary next year.Newland defended Slone’s hefty earnings. When RFRHA goes to Congress for $4 or $5 million next year, the amount it’s paying Slone will seem “like a pretty good deal,” he said.RFRHA’s budget bottom line depends on ratification by all of the member governments. After their approval of the budget Wednesday, the board members were instructed to take it back to their respective boards, commissions and councils for approval.RFRHA is a consortium of valley governments formed to acquire and oversee the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad right of way, purchased for a trail and possible mass-transit corridor.
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