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Tahawus rail line

A stretch of train tracks in Tahawus, part of a rail line the state had wanted declared 'abandoned,' is seen.

Warren County leaders agreed Friday to hold off on their opposition of a state plan to have a rail line in Essex and northern Warren counties declared “abandoned.”

County supervisors withdrew a resolution that would oppose the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s efforts to boot the railroad company that owns the Tahawus rail line in the Adirondacks. The DEC filed an “abandonment” request with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board asking the STB to remove Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC from the line for lack of use, following a controversy over storage of tanker cars on the line.

The county’s move comes as the state agreed to a 90-day delay to allow Iowa Pacific to negotiate a sale with transportation company OmniTRAX, a Colorado-based transportation company that wants to move stone from former mines in Tahawus. OmniTRAX has also discussed operating on Warren County’s rail line south of the Tahawus line, and on the section of line between Hadley and Saratoga Springs that the town of Corinth owns.

Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors Public Works Committee, said the county wanted to make sure state officials understood that action on the Tahawus Line, also known as the Sanford Lake Branch, could hurt Warren County’s efforts to find an operator for its stretch of rails, and generate revenue to maintain the line.

“We don’t want things being dictated without our concerns being addressed,” Simpson said. “Everyone is concerned about another railroad operator but no one, including the state, has come forward with a plan or checkbook except Warren County.”

Essex and Hamilton counties, the town of Newcomb and the Adirondack Park Local Government Review Board have all passed resolutions opposing the abandonment request.

Iowa Pacific operated excursion and freight trains in the region for about six years, closing this spring amid financial problems.

The company was criticized for the state it left part of the line in, and Johnsburg Supervisor Andrea Hogan said the company’s contractors recently completed the cleanup of most of its equipment and “detritus” that was left behind at the North Creek train depot.

“It looks pretty good up there now,” she said.

In other Board of Supervisors news:

  • The annual county tax foreclosure property auction was slated for Saturday, and 26 properties were to be auctioned off. When the process started earlier this year, 654 were eligible for foreclosure, but owners and the county were able to get taxes paid or make payment plan agreements to whittle the list.
  • County supervisors will get their first look at the 2019 county budget at a Budget Committee meeting on Tuesday morning. Stony Creek Supervisor Frank Thomas, the board’s budget officer, said the initial plan as of Friday was for a budget that would have a 2.5 percent tax increase, below the 2.7 percent increase the state tax cap would allow.
  • County supervisors unanimously approved an agreement to allow the county airport’s “fixed base operator” to run flight services there for the next decade.

Rich Air LLC will serve as the airport’s fixed base operator for 10 more years, with an option for an additional 10 years at the end of the deal. Rich Air has been the fixed base operator since 2009.

The contract will guarantee the county more income each year, as well as a higher percentage of revenue from fuel sales and revenue from new jet hangars.

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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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