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Saratoga & North Creek Railway

Passengers enjoy a meal as they ride north along the Hudson River on the Saratoga & North Creek Railway during a ride in 2011. Warren County is in the process of picking a replacement for the company after it pulled out of Warren County last year.

Warren County received four responses to its request for proposals to use its rail line, one of them from a Saratoga County economic development guru who is part of a group proposing tourist and freight trains as well as possible use of the former International Paper Co. mill in Corinth.

The suitors include three national railroad companies, one of which is working with Jon “Jack” Kelley, the Saratoga County real estate and economic development executive credited with helping to bring the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant to the region.

The Warren County Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee met Monday to discuss new proposals for use of the rail line.

The company that ran trains on it for seven years, Iowa Pacific Holdings — doing business as Saratoga & North Creek Railway — pulled out last year.

Kelley is among a local group working with United Rail of Las Vegas, while OmniTRAX of Colorado and Railnet International have also submitted proposals. The fourth company, RailStar Corporation of Cape Vincent, submitted a proposal that was deemed “non-responsive” to the county’s request and is not being considered.

Railnet proposed a purchase of the rail line, while United and OmniTRAX were interested in leasing or lease-to-purchase arrangements.

County Administrator Ryan Moore said the full proposals could not be released to the public Monday because they contain proprietary information, but the county would release them as soon as possible. The Post-Star has filed Freedom of Information Law requests for them.

The Public Works Committee met in a closed-door executive session Monday for its first discussion on the proposals, and Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the committee, said no decisions were made. Additional meetings will be scheduled in the coming weeks.

Representatives of United were the only suitors to attend Monday’s meeting.

In addition to Kelley, the company has been working with Queensbury resident Steve Fisk, a retired CP Rail Co. executive with more than four decades of experience in the business. He runs a railroad consulting company, Nottingham Rail.

The company’s plans call for excursion trains and freight trains to maximize use of the rails, and its executives believe they can overcome the financial difficulties that other operators have experienced, Kelley said.

Kelley and Fisk said the group has already laid a lot of groundwork in Saratoga County, by hiring a marketing firm and working with the town of Corinth and Saratoga County economic leaders to get their venture going.

It focuses at least in part on tapping into the hundreds of thousands of tourists who descend on the Saratoga Springs area every year for the excursion train business, Fisk said.

“You have this huge, untapped base of visitors in Saratoga,” he said.

The 88-mile section of rail line between Saratoga Springs and the Essex County hamlet of Tahawus is owned by three different entities. The town of Corinth owns the stretch from Saratoga Springs to Corinth, Warren County owns from Hadley to North Creek and Iowa Pacific owns from North Creek to Tahawus.

Iowa Pacific is negotiating to sell its portion of the line, with OmniTRAX having exclusive rights to a potential sale.

Corinth Supervisor Richard Lucia did not return a phone call for comment Monday on his town’s stance on use of the rail line.

Kelley asked county leaders for a timetable for a decision, as the group wants to get moving on its plans if it can.

Moore said the Board of Supervisors will review the proposals, and make decisions soon.

“It’s in our best interests to do this quickly and thoroughly,” Moore said.

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reporter - crimes & courts, public safety and Warren County government

Don Lehman covers crime and Warren County government for The Post-Star. His work can be found on Twitter @PS_CrimeCourts and on poststar.com/app/blogs.

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