Friday Mar 21 2008
Running out of steam
By: Jim Ratajczak, The Telegraph
End of the line for Folsom's favorite little train?
Even with an estimated 300,000 trips around Folsom City Lions Park since the early 90s, new fees might turn the Folsom Valley Railway's miniature train into the little engine that couldn't. The city has asked for a rent increase of $8,000 to $10,000 or more, said Terry Gold, operator of the 2 Â½-inch-to-a-foot scale 1949 Atlantic 442 steam engine. That's approximately a 100-percent increase. It's beyond my comprehension of why anybody would want to do this to me. Gold has been the operator of the Folsom Valley Railway and the snack bar for 18 years, but tentative changes to the agreement he made with the city in October 2007 call for additional fees, leaving Gold's future uncertain. Before, I'd been giving the city a percentage based on the number of visitors I'd get, he explained. That makes sense to me. But what they're doing now, it's like a slap in the face. It ticks me off tremendously. Parks and Recreation Commission documents show Gold agreed to a slight increase in monthly rent in October 2007 “ $855 from $834. But recently, a Parks and Recreation Commission subcommittee recommended he also pay a flat rent of $100 or $200 per night when the park hosts events. The subcommittee also advised the commission hold a competitive bid process for the train and operations inclusive of allowing the City to submit a train and concession operations plan. Ernie Sheldon, Parks and Recreation Commission chairman, maintains the city isn't trying to push Gold out the door. Why would we want to put him out of business if the public is satisfied? Sheldon said. We want the train. We want Terry to make money. We're just trying to make it a decent contract for the city. Sheldon said the fees are not arbitrary and are important so Folsom can conduct good business. The city's paying for the (park events) and that stuff, said Sheldon. He's not paying a penny for it but he's getting more business. This is just a case of Terry trying to promote us not doing anything. Sheldon also said the railway going up for bid is standard procedure, not a sign Parks and Recreation wants Gold gone. Everything done by Parks and Rec is done by contracts, he said. But we've never done it with Terry before “ we've always just renewed his contract instead. It's not designed to put him out of business. But if you're confident in your product, you're not going to worry about any bids. However, Gold is still fearful of what the future might hold. My biggest concern is I'm living in the unknown for the next year, Gold said. Someone might come in and lowball me and I have to be prepared to be gone in 30 days. I just don't understand the logic of putting my train ride up for bid. Gold estimates he's accumulated about $300,000 in debt as operator of the railroad but insists his work is a true labor of love. I'm not trying to make a killing, he said. I just want to make ends meet, cover my bills and enjoy what I do. Like Gold, Sheldon hopes Folsom Valley Railway will carry passengers for years to come. But he also knows nobody gets a free ride. All we're trying to do is give the city its fair shake, he said. But (Gold) has got to face reality. These are tough economic times and the city can't keep sustaining his lifestyle without getting anything in return. Parks and Recreation director Robert Goss was unavailable for comment Friday.