QUEENSBURY-For years, Warren County Supervisors have complained - or suffered public embarrassment - about the expensive train platforms they had constructed primarily with grant funding for the county railway.
Two platforms, one at Hadley and the other in Thurman had cost $2.5 million to build - an expense that angered and puzzled the public, considering these were not complete train stations as people had envisioned nearly a decade ago for the tourist railway.
But last week, with a county railway to be running trains as soon as this summer under an ambitious new operator, the county supervisors endorsed a plan to erect structures, however modest, at these two stops.
Passengers traveling the rail line may soon have at least a rest room and a roof to keep rain off their heads when they visit the two stopovers in Hadley and Thurman.
At the suggestion of Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, the county endorsed a plan to spend up to $47,626 in leftover federal grant funds to put up walls and roofs, and at least one rest room at each of the two platforms.
Merlino suggested that volunteer labor to build the structures could be recruited from the communities served by the railway, and the grant money could be stretched to bankroll more upgrades besides building materials, like lighting and signage.
County Department of Public Works Committee Chairman Dan Belden, Supervisor of Hague, said spending the money to upgrade the passenger experience would be a good use of money that would otherwise have to be handed back to the government.
"We fought to get the funds, and I hate to turn it back in," he said.
The proposed structures, however, fall far short of plans drafted five years or so ago, which called for architect-designed train stations with historic detailing, complete with lobbies, luggage rooms, and concession booths.
The structures endorsed April 25 may merely be four walls made out of cheap pressboard siding - and they could be upgraded in the years to come, with full stations as once envisioned, supervisors said.
But Merlino said last week that the interim structures could be as extensive as the volunteers wanted, as long as they build it.
Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Russell said the construction of the Thurman Station would be up to a local citizens committee.
Thurman Station Committee president Perky Granger said Tuesday, May 3 she was pleased with the county vote, and the idea of drafting plans and recruiting volunteers would be addressed soon by her group.
She said her committee not only considered Thurman Station to serve as a site for community events, but their early dreams of a historically-detailed enclosed station had been put on hold in recent years, during an era that county supervisors pursued budget cuts.
"We always thought that something historic would be appropriate," she said. Meanwhile, her group has been seeking to locate the caboose now sitting in Riparius and outfitted as a refreshment stand, to be relocated to Thurman Station. Any development of Thurman Station would benefit Warrensburg and Stony Creek as well as thurman, she said.
"We want the station benefit the local economies," she said.
Meanwhile, county leaders are moving forward with the new train operators' ambitious plans. Last week, the county endorsed an intermunicipal agreement with the Town of Corinth regarding the railway. The contract covers how revenue, expenses and responsibility will be shared. Yet to be ratified by Corinth, the agreement calls for the county to handle most administrative duties, plus coordinate and oversee repairs and infrastructure inspection as necessary.
The supervisors also voted to raise an emergency repair reserve fund - to be bankrolled over time from receipts from railway operations - from $500,000 to $1 million. The move was in response to warnings from public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson that the railway bridges along the line have an aggregate value of $31 million, and costly repairs would be likely over time.
In recent years criticized as a money-losing, doomed operation, a new pending agreement for the railway through rural Warren County promises an array of new passenger services and excursions, as well as freight traffic - together envisioned to jumpstart the economy in the lower Adirondacks.
Several weeks ago, county leaders approved a contract with Iowa Pacific Holdings that guarantees local taxpayers an income of $81,958 to $190,000 - six percent of the rail line's gross revenues - depending on the success of the rail service.
That revenue is to be split between the town of Corinth and Warren County after the reserve fund is bankrolled and specific expenses are paid.
The operator also pledges to operate at least 100 round-trip passenger trains from May to October, and a minimum of 30 ski trains and at least 50 dining excursions.