C&T Commission meeting, July 16, 2015, Antonito CO
This is NOT any kind of official document of the meeting. This is my attempt to document what occurred. I assume you already know the commissioners. Other names in here may be spelled wrong as I only heard them and didn't see them written out.
Dan Love introduced CO Senator Crowder, thanking him for his support and asked him for a few words. Senator Crowder mentioned his interest in the C&T and he will continue to support the RR.
Dan Love announced that Pete Foster has stepped down. Lucy Kay (not sure on spelling). She is from Breckenridge, involved with tourism & marketing. She has been a strong fan of the RR for the last several years. She has been an outside consultant for the commission. She was unable to attend this meeting do to prior commitments.
John Bush presented a thank you gift (bookends made from Labato Bridge rail) to Pete Foster, who was not at the meeting to receive it.
Dan introduced three people that work with the CO house & governor.
Minutes from prior meeting approved.
John Bush Presidents report. CO approved the promised $1.1 million for the 3rd & final year of a 3 year funding plan. The RR has submitted a 10 year plan, and with 6% growth per year, has been determined to make the RR self sufficient. The 10 year plan will be submitted to create a 5 year plan, like the 3 year plan. The funding includes track improvement, 2 new premium class passenger cars, reconstruction of the first generation passenger coaches, restoration of the historic cars, along with FRA required maintenance of the engines, and structures. NM has provided $645,000 in capital funding that will be used for Locomotive, track, bridge, water system and servicing facility upgrades. It also includes funds for a visitor center. CO&NM have provided $38,000 to operate the commission. Before season opening bridge work was completed at Cascade Creek, and Cumbres trestle as well as several trestles on the east end. Ditching and drainage work is ongoing at this time. Tie replacement & ballasting is going on as well. The passenger cars have been painted, letter and clear coated. Interior improvements have been made as well. The season opened with 4 steam engines in service. 487s 1472 work is done, painted. Should be ready for service this weekend. Had one mechanical issue, an air compressor issue on 488, which didn't run that day. Improved dump station in Chama has increased efficiency in servicing the train. Similar improvement is being made in Antonito. Current ridership is slightly ahead of last year. Reservations are up 2% over last year. Not at the 6% target. Three 15 year leases have been done for locomotive 168 in Colorado Springs. Once paperwork in Washington DC is complete, the locomotive will be moved to Antonito. The master plan and construction documents have been filed for the historic car fleet. Work can now begin on RPO 65. The C&T and Durango & Silverton are discussing a trade for engine 483 (C&T, out service since mid 1970's) & 478 (D&S). The Tracks Across Borders reached final approval May 21. This is another part of the goal to have the RR become a World Heritage Site. It is believed that Heritage tourism will strengthen the RR as a tourism destination.
Lee Bates (marketing manager C&TS) presented the marketing report. Reservations are up 2% 16,784 . Looking at ways to acheave the goal of 35,000 by the end of the year. Looking at doing some specials during the low rider months & Sundays. Looking at adding to coach ridership, as the premium class already sell well. September & October bookings look good (for the fall colors). During the slower part of the season, people don't book as far out. The local appreciation discount of 50% off the last 2 weeks of August. Area will expand to Durango, Farmington, Espanola. The Consigerish program is working surprisingly well. That allows others to sell C&T tickets at a discount. So far has sold 499 tickets. Running 30 second commercials on Comcast & DirecTv. FoxNews, CNN, History Channel, Weather Channel, AMC. The Media day events have gone well. Journalists are invited to ride the train. Most have come down from the Denver Area. USA.com has a nice write up. Lodgers in Chama & Antonito have provided rooms for the writers, which may become a part of the stories they write. Last month saw the second printing of the brochure (40,000). Started with 200,000. Some new commercials will be shown on the broadcast networks. Shown in Albuquerque, Sante Fe, Colorado Springs & Pueblo. Looking to expand e-mail list to reach a larger audience. Randy Randall sees a problem that we are currently at +2% for the season, and the goal is +6%. Doesn't want to wait until September to market. Suggests getting additional marketing funds to go to work now. Reaching the 35,000 passenger number is very important to Randy.
George Canham, Financial Report. Completed this FY audit. Now, the RR has had 2 years of profit. The operating company had a profit of $140,000 for the current FY. Once adjusted for year end, it is expected to be around $100,000. Capital funding looks good. The accounting method for the new FY will change, to make things easier. The commissioners approved the accounting method change. There are to be 4 sets of books. One for operations. One for capital, one for the commission, and one for the historical preservation. The commission has a $35,000 loss, in part due to lack of funding from NM.
John Bush said the commission asked for a capital projects budget. Ed Beaudette presented said budget. The funds just received from NM two weeks ago made things easier. This will keep vital capital programs moving, and not loose ground. The locomotive program will be maintained for the current FY. Locomotive 488 should get its 1472 done over the winter along with all of the other required annuals ($500,000). Track program to continue. In around 5 years, should be more in a maintenance mode ($850,000). Passenger car work (annuals, repairs & conversion of older fleet into newer standard, $360,000). The historic car program will continue ($130,000). Along with other work, total of just over $2,000,000. Randy Randall was pleased with the plan. He feels good it will help gain funding from NM. Dan Love mentioned that capital is currently in an upgrade mode. 5 years from now, it should drop to maintenance mode, thus requiring less funding in the future. We are nearing the end of the deferred maintenance from the D&RG days.
John Bush mentioned that the advantage of the LLC (known as CTO, the operating company of the RR) is it looks to the long term interest of the RR, whereas the prior operators looked at the short term for their own profits. The creation of the LLC also help created the long term budgets for the RR.
Dan Love chairman report. Dan oversees marketing, BillyElbrock, local affairs, Randy Randall, finance, Pete Foster was capital projects. Dan will take on capital projects, and see if Lucy Kay will take over marketing. Vice Chairman oversees operatioin of the CTO. Dan has been working with History Colorado, which has the C&T appropriation. Working on getting a 5 year resolution for the C&T appropriation. The commission is working on making the C&T the premier steam RR on the nation. Dan feels the RR has made many improvements over the last 5 years.
Randy Randall mentioned a nice write up in Groups Magazine, and their fine comments of the RR. He is frustrated with the effort to get appropriations from NM. It took a special session in NM to get $500,000.
No secretary report this meeting.
Billy Elbrock talked about Kim Cassford, community relations. She has gotten together with over 100 entities. All positive comments on her work. Billy has been working with Dee Bates. She is working on getting a miniature golf course in Chama. She presented her report. The course will be themed on the C&T, for a virtual tour of the line. It would be built on RR property. The commission wants no financial risk, nor do they want to operate it. Randy asked what happens “what if (it didn't work out)”? Those questions will need to be answered.
Jeannie Welch, Steam Train Hotel-The Conejos chamber of commerce wants to shut down. The chamber has asked Jeannie to find 7 new members to continue with the chamber. Call 719-298-8908 (the hotel), or her cell phone 414-581-0246. George Canham expressed his desire to help in any way he can.
Roger Hogan asking about tourist center update. Roger has been asked by many what the status is. Randy replied that there is a grant from NM DOT. There is still a funding shortfall. Randy will be meeting with DOT in Sante Fe to better determine the restrictions. Since 75% of the funds come from DOT, everything requires extensive study and documentation, unlike the private sector. Roger then continued by thanking the commission for appointing a liaison, as it has taken 95% of the frustration of working with the commission. He makes one phone call, and something gets done.
Tim Tennant-4 work sessions done. 2 sessions coming up. Volunteer count is up. Mentioned it is getting more difficult to feed everyone. A Gramps frameless oil car was fully restored and looking great (personal note, it is fantastic). Spent time working on caboose 0579, back in good shape. Worked on the oil docks. The Osier section house has been sided & painted. Working on the foundation of the Cumbers section house. RPO in Chama. Having some trouble with woodpeckers. Moonlight train to run 7/31. Working on a MOW train 10/3 pulled by 463. Bob Ross is the new Chairman of the Friends, following Craig McMullan. Friends are still working on sleeper 470.
Approve/disapprove FY 16/16 CTO Budget. Ed Beaudette said some adjustments to the budget were made after the April meeting. Relating to holiday pay, payroll expense issues, a small amount on the special events budget. Group sales, and the community relations liaison member required adjustment to the budget. Motion carries.
App/Dis FY 15/16 Commission Budget. Motion carries. Minimum cost of food service for the sunset trains set at $1000, for next commission meeting.
App/Dis FY 15/16 Capital Budget. Approved.
Lobby work on the CO side (Gayle Berry)-A single year increase to $18,000 from $12,000. Coming into an intense year as far as CO budgeting. More work will be required of the lobbyists. After next year, return to the $12,000 figure. There are several new members of the Joint Budget Committee. They are not up to speed on the C&T yet. Approved.
Retail Policy-Roger Hogan thanked the commission for doing it the right way. He is happy. Approved.
Purchase of baggage car #163-Approved.
Commission funding for locomotive 168-(to get it transported to Antonito). Money has already been approved in its historic places status. Will go to the next commission as unfinished business.
Trade of C&T locomotive 483 with Durango & Silverton 478-looking for conditional approval on the trade. Exact details have yet to be worked out. Approving the trade now allows John Bush to continue working with the D&S, and not have to wait for the October meeting to move forward. Randy Randall asked Tim Tennant of the Friends opinion. Randy felt it was a good deal as the C&T was gaining a different class of locomotive. Also, the C&T is trading something that doesn't work for something that does, even though the 478 won't work much longer. Randy felt that the normal maintenance to get 478 was a better deal than getting 483 running. Tim responded that there are members that have a strong attachment to 483. The 483, unless a bunch of money came in would not likely run on the C&T. Tim feels that getting another class of D&RG locomotive, trading for the 483 makes sense. One Friends member commented to Tim, that he would rather see 483 run on the D&S, rather than never run again on the C&T. A K-28 is expected to pull a 6 car train to Cumbres from Chama. 478 & 463 could double, pulling a 12 car train. Randy was concerned that adding a locomotive would add cost to running the RR. The up side is it would delay the 1472 rebuilds, thus enjoying a savings there. John Bush mentioned that the cost of the annual inspects is relatively minimal compared to the 1472 work. Roger Hogan asked Tim Tennant, The 483 is the only locomotive that had its own bank account. Tim responded that the funds donated to the 483 were either spent on cosmetic efforts on the 483, or the Friends webcams. There is no money in the account. No money moves with the locomotive. Approved.