The Decision Ends Litigation Which Began in 2013
KINGSTON, N.Y. - Ulster County Executive Mike Hein announces an agreement today with the Catskill Mountain Railroad (CMRR) which ends litigation begun in 2013 when CMRR commenced a lawsuit against Ulster County. The comprehensive agreement, detailed below, offsets taxpayer costs, identifies additional environmental clean-up responsibilities of CMRR and requires independent inspections to ensure track safety for any future tourist train rides.
The CMRR lease of the Catskill Mountain branch of the County-owned Ulster & Delaware rail corridor is set to expire on May 31, 2016. County Executive Mike Hein set forth a compromise plan in 2014 that served as a framework for a Legislative Committee recommendation and the final plan was approved unanimously by the Ulster County Legislature. This segmented plan provides for tourist railroad operations in the Kingston and Phoenicia areas while simultaneously converting the other portions to an inter-connected public rail trail system. This plan was formally adopted as County policy when the Legislature passed Resolution No. 488, on December 15, 2015. The County has recently issued a request for proposals for the sections designated for continued railroad use.
“This agreement helps taxpayers, our environment as well as moves Ulster County forward. It is rewarding to see the original compromise plan my administration designed in 2014 not only became the basis for a critical and unanimous Legislative vote, but now has also helped resolve this unfortunate and protracted litigation,” continued said County Executive Mike Hein. “As County Executive, my responsibilities include holding all leaseholders accountable to the people of Ulster County no matter who they are or how politically connected they may be, and I take that obligation very seriously. This agreement also reiterates CMRR’s obligation to address environmental issues for which it is either fully or partially responsible. I want to commend the County Attorney and her legal team, the Planning Department and the County Legislature, along with my entire administration, we all remain committed to positively shaping the future of Ulster County while maintaining a deep respect for our history.”
“My administration has remained focused on ensuring the best of both worlds by designing a segmented plan that saves tourist train operations in the Kingston and Phoenicia areas, while simultaneously opening up the entire north shore of the Ashokan Reservoir to everyone without permit or fee, for the first time in over 100 years,” continued the County Executive. “The addition of a linear park in mid-town Kingston as part of this plan will address very serious social justice issues, while improving recreational opportunities for everyone. I commend the special Legislative Committee and the entire Legislature for their responsible and thoughtful additions to our initial plan and for a clear and important policy direction. Together we continue to strive towards improving our economy and making Ulster County a healthier place for our residents and visitors alike.”
As part of the agreement:
The Catskill Mountain Railroad has agreed to:
· Cease train operations on May 31, 2016;
· Vacate the Cornell Street rail yard on or before May 1, 2016;
· Pay rent owed to Ulster County for the period June 1, 2015 through May 31, 2016;
· Forfeit its $75,000 bond to Ulster County (to offset County litigation expenses);
· Post an additional $25,000 bond and a security interest in its equipment to ensure its compliance with the settlement agreement;
· Remain responsible for any environmental effects of its train operations;
· Remove discarded rail ties along the tracks leaving the entire right of way free of debris and trash; and
· Hire a federal Railroad Administration inspector to ensure track safety before CMRR conducts any future tourist train rides.
Ulster County has agreed to:
· Allow CMRR to store its equipment on the property for an additional sixty days to allow CMRR time to make arrangements for its removal.