The search for an operator for the reconstructed Virginia & Truckee Railway will be conducted across the country, a state commission decided Monday.
Many members of the Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V& T Railway board have favored contracting the operation to an experienced rail operator. Other V&T supporters advocate for the operation to stay local, where it's been for the 30 years that the project has been in the works.
The project is expected to cost upwards of $40 million using mostly public money. The commission decided to issue a request for proposals from tourist railroad operators, but it postponed hiring a Pennsylvania firm to help draft that request.
Commissioner John Tyson said the $14,000 to $16,000 it would cost to hire a consultant to assist in drafting the request for proposals is a waste of taxpayers' money. He said the board could hire a general manager and a marketing professional locally, rather than asking someone else to find the commission a company that would take over the entire operation.
"There's five people I know of just in this room with 30 years or more railroad experience, including tourism railroad experience," Tyson said, looking around at the audience.
Commission Chairman Bob Hadfield said hiring Stone Consulting & Design, of Warren, Penn., to help find qualified operators would not preclude a local group from putting together a proposal. Hadfield asked the audience if anyone present had experience with being a general manager, chief financial officer, or marketing agent with a tourism rail road. No one raised a hand.
"I respect the experience of people in this room, but I would respectfully say we are looking for a higher level of combined experience," Hadfield said. "We want to see if there is anyone out there. No one will lose in this process."
Commissioner Marv Teixeira, who is mayor of Carson City, said Stone Consulting is the best in the business and its employees are familiar with the V&T. He said Stone Consulting will take a few months to put together the request for proposals. It will then make sure qualified operators are aware of the V&T project.
After four months of waiting for the proposals to come in, the commission could have an operator selected in a year.
"In that process we hope people will say 'I'll build the depot. I'll have an investment in this too,'" Teixeira said. "I want to spend $14,000-$20,000 to get a professional to work with us as a group to come up with the request for proposals."
Commissioners Tyson and Ron Allen dissented on the vote to authorize the issuance of a request for proposals. The board decided to give other consulting companies who specialize in tourism railroads an opportunity to ask to work with the commission. The board will decide on a consultant at its Feb. 6 meeting.
n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.