V&T: Who's paying the train fare?

An 18-mile tourist railroad that could face construction delays if it doesn't get more money has received over half its funds from Carson City but little or nothing from several other counties also directing the project.

The nine-member Nevada Commission for the Reconstruction of the V&T Railway, which includes representatives from Carson City as well as Storey, Washoe, Lyon and Douglas counties, has about $37 million of the $55 million it needs to finish.

Carson City has given $21 million of that, more than all other counties combined. Washoe County has given $250,000. Douglas and Lyon counties have given nothing.

Lyon was part of the initial three-county commission formed with Storey County and Carson in 1993. Washoe and Douglas were added in 2001. County representatives have an equal vote on the commission.

Storey, which has less than a tenth of the population of Carson, added a quarter of a cent sales tax in the early 1990s that has raised $2 million.

The state, which has three representatives, has given about $2 million. The commission has gotten about $12 million in federal grants.

Work on the railroad running from Virginia City to Carson City could have to temporarily stop at the edge of Carson next year if the commission doesn't get more funds.

Nevada Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, who cosponsored the 2001 bill that added representatives from Washoe and Douglas counties, said there is no explicit language in the bill that asks counties to contribute money.

The assembly had hoped, however, to "create a situation where everyone who would be affected by (the project) would be encouraged to participate."

Commission Chairman Bob Hadfield, appointed by the speaker of the assembly, said at a commission meeting this month that he was embarrassed that his home county, Lyon, had given nothing.

"We need to start kicking ourselves somewhere to make sure we're pulling it together," added Commissioner Dwight Millard, who was appointed by the governor.

Carson City has raised its money through an eighth-of-a-cent sales tax passed by supervisors in 2005 and a room tax implemented by the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2002. Project supporters say the railway will bring more tourism and recognition to the city.

Mayor Marv Teixeira, the city's representative on the commission, said he won't blame any county for not giving, but he hopes all represented on the commission will support the project.

"If it wasn't for (Carson City), this project would have stopped," he said.

Storey County pays its quarter-of-a-cent sales tax to the project, said John Flanagan, Storey county's representative, because residents want to promote tourism in the county. He said the 104,000-acre Tahoe Reno Industrial Center helps drive the sales tax contributions.

Many people in Lyon County, however, don't think the project will help them, said Larry McPherson, Lyon county's commission representative, so it's difficult to convince them to tax themselves for the project.

Lyon County, before McPherson was the commission representative, turned down the same quarter-cent sales tax that Storey approved. Carson City voters also rejected it.

McPherson said he might try to put either a property tax or sales tax on the ballot in November, but he doesn't know if it will pass.

"You know how people are with taxes," he said.

Commissioners have said they will try to get another $250,000 from Washoe County, an area Teixeira said will provide many of the hotel rooms railroad visitors will use.

Each county's residents have the right to choose whether they want to give to a project, said Ron Weisinger, director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority, but the railroad will benefit all counties represented on the commission.

"It's all part of that grand approach of bringing tourists into the area," he said.

This tourism, said Carson City Convention & Visitors' Bureau Director Candy Duncan, is why the project is important to the city.

"Obviously, we're putting our money where our mouth is," she said.

The V&T Railway, modeled after the original railroad built in 1869 to handle the Comstock mining boom, is expected to be finished in 2011.

Workers finished about a mile and a half of track from Gold Hill to the Overman Pit in 2005 and have started on about 4.5 miles from American Flat in Storey County to Mound House in Lyon County. That section is expected to be done in August.

Work will then start on the next 5 miles that will take the project to the edge of the city.

After that, the commission might have to wait.


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