By Eugenia Jones
Four days of court-ordered arbitration proceedings between the McCreary County Heritage Foundation (MCHF) and Wasatch Railroad Contractors and its Chief Executive Officer, John E. Rimmasch, ended last week. A decision, when rendered, will resolve the 2018 civil action complaint filed by MCHF against Wasatch and Rimmasch. The complaint alleged five counts, including breach of contract, and stems from a 2012 design/build contract entered into by MCHF and the Wyoming based railroad contractors for the restoration and completion (to operational condition) of the K & T Railway No. 14 steam locomotive, built in 1944 and owned by MCHF in Stearns. During the proceedings, MCHF submitted 6,500 pages of documents to the arbitrator.
Terms of the contract specified Wasatch would complete restoration of the locomotive to meet Federal Railway Administration (FRA) requirements within thirty-six months with MCHF paying $695,000 for the restoration. As of today, the locomotive still does not meet operating conditions in compliance with FRA standards.
During the arbitration proceedings, which were held in the Outdoor Venture Corporation Conference Room, both sides presented their cases and called expert witnesses. Arbitrator Tom Yokum, who is sanctioned by the American Arbitration Association, has until thirty days after the filing of post-hearing briefs to render his decision. A decision is expected no later than September 23 and will be binding on both parties.
In addition to being updated about arbitration proceedings during their regular August meeting, MCHF Board Members addressed several other agenda items.
Chairman Ray Moncrief reported an ARC Power grant application seeking funding for establishment of a Stearns Visitor Center as part of the Kentucky Wildlands initiative was not approved. However, Moncrief stated the Foundation has applied or is in the process of applying for additional grants to refurbish and restore the downtown area of Stearns and renovate the McCreary County Museum Building.
Despite state mandated restrictions and a late spring opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Moncrief reported regular tourism operations for the Big South Fork Scenic Railway have been favorable this season with ridership only about one thousand less than last year. He also shared the Stearns Golf Course’s “stellar year”-noting revenue is up by sixty percent. Moncrief said he is most impressed by golfers who are pitching in to help improve and maintain Kentucky’s second oldest golf course.
Moncrief also reported progress is being made on repair of the section of railway impacted by a slide which occurred during flood type conditions. The slide forced closure of the railway tracks just past Barthel and halted regular passenger excursions from Stearns to Blue Heron and the BSFNRRA. The repair work is funded with Abandoned Mine Land money with a specialized crew doing the work. Moncrief said the site has been bulldozed, and steel beams have been hauled to the area. Two drills are on-site and will be used to drill four hundred holes in the side of the mountain. Steel rods will be driven into the holes. The holes will then be filled with concrete. Drilling is expected to begin within the next two weeks. The project is classified as a six month project.
The McCreary County Heritage Foundation meets in regular session on the second Monday of each month at 5:30.