Tuolumne County leaders are open to the idea of helping to fund Railtown 1897, at least during the short-term.
During talks about the county budget today, District Five Supervisor Dick Pland asked the Board to send a letter to the State of California saying the county will “consider” allocating funds for Railtown when the final budget hearings are held in September.
Pland estimates that $30,000 is still needed to keep the soon to be closed state park open for an additional year. $150,000 was recently raised thanks to fundraisers by local service clubs, and a grant by the Sonora Area Foundation. Pland expects the state will chip in an additional $160,000, which is what it would cost to “moth ball” the park when it’s closed.
“I just wish that those who were against ballot Measure C would have come up with an alternative funding proposal, but they did not,” says Pland. “So it comes back to the people of this county, and this board, about whether we are going to keep Railtown open or not. I am proposing that we do everything we can to keep it open for one more year, and then see how everything plays out.”
Measure C was voted down earlier this month and would have expanded the current Transient Occupancy Tax. The new funding could have been used to help keep Railtown and the Mother Lode Fairgrounds operational.
The motion to send the letter was approved with a 5-0 vote this morning, but Supervisors Evan Royce and Randy Hanvelt indicated that they would have to be convinced at the September budget hearing in regards to actually allocating the money.
“If you can figure out a way to save it, it would be nice,” says Royce. “But I want to make sure that if we pull $30,000 out of our budget, we are pulling it from areas of like kind.”
Royce indicated that he is not willing to see programs like public safety harmed in order to help the park.
Supervisor Hanvelt added that he enjoys taking family and friends to the park and strongly supports finding a long term solution for Railtown. However, he is cautious about allocating county funds.
“I am willing to talk about Railtown anytime, but I heard the voters pretty loud and clear (Measure C),” says Hanvelt. “Whether you think they were ill informed or not, they spoke.”
Supervisor Pland responded, “Frankly, I am out of alternatives, and I think that the committee that is trying to save Railtown is out of alternatives.”
The issue will be ironed out in September. County leaders hope that by sending the letter, it will further delay any potential closure of the park.
In addition today, the county approved many aspects of the fiscal year budget for next year. However, many of the decisions related to staffing cuts, notably public safety, were delayed until later this summer when the county has a better estimate of the incoming finances.