Ulster wants to throw CMRR off the tracks

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By Jay Braman Jr.
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein has taken legal action against the Catskill Mountain Railroad, informing the group that it faces eviction from the county-owned tracks unless several violations to the CMRR’s lease are corrected within 30 days.

This marks the latest shot fired in a long battle between Hein, who wants to turn the tracks between Kingston and Mount Tremper into a rail trail, and the CMRR, which has visions of restoring the tracks and running a tourism based train back and forth instead.

On June 12, Hein sent CMRR a “Notice of Default/Demand to Cure” citing nine separate violations of the lease, which CMRR has had since 1991. The lease expires in 2016.

Lease requirements
The notice, signed by County Attorney Beatrice Havranek, says the lease requires that the railroad rehabilitate one mile of track per year so that the entire rail line between Kingston and Phoenicia is “entirely rehabilitated to Class 1 condition by the end of this lease.”
The lease also requires that CMRR keep the railway free of brush and debris from Kingston all the way up to the Ulster/Delaware county border at Highmount.

CMRR is also supposed to pay the county rent based on a percentage of its gross revenue, but the county claims that CMRR has been making improper deductions before calculating the rent fee.
Havranek also claims that CMRR has refused to allow the county to review its books, has not shown proof of proper insurance and illegally prevents the public from using the right of way.

On Monday CMRR spokesman Harry Jameson said there was no merit to the county’s claim.
“The Catskill Mountain Railroad welcomes the opportunity to once and for all show that it is in compliance with its lease obligations,” he said.
Jameson adds that CMRR is also ready to sit down with county officials to talk seriously about a rails-with-trails design for the rail line.

But so far, the county seems to be steadfast. In a prepared statement Havranek said, “The Catskill Mountain Railroad is a private, for-profit business operating on county-owned property that has been unable or unwilling to live up to many of its legal commitments, and portions of this public asset have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. The county has a responsibility to ensure that any organizations leasing land from Ulster County fulfill their legal commitments.”
Jameson said CMRR attorneys are preparing a response to the county’s allegations.