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2007-09-05 / Front Page

TSRA/American Heritage contract finalized Friday

BY LELAND ACKER

Months of negotiation and years of preparation were finalized at 6:06 p.m. Friday in Palestine as board members of the Texas State Railroad Authority (TSRA) and American Heritage Railways of Texas (AHR) signed the contract making AHR the private operator of the Texas State Railroad.

AHR took over Saturday and welcomed guests to a continental breakfast held at the Rusk depot.

Contract negotiations went late last week as American Heritage officials had proposed changes to the operating agreement with TSRA.

AHR had proposed changing paragraph 18 so that they could declare TSRA in breach of contract if the State of Texas failed to provide the $2 million in funding that was promised. AHR further proposed that the $2 million not be "unreasonably withheld" in regards to loans made from the TSRA to AHR. TSRA attorney Ron Stutes said he had a problem with the phrase "unreasonably withheld," saying that AHR could declare the TSRA in breach of contract if they denied a loan from the $2 million.

The TSRA voted to meet AHR halfway and passed a proposal that TSRA would immediately make available a $500,000 loan to AHR, then another $500,000 in loans could be made available without being unreasonably denied. If further funding was necessary, TSRA would help AHR pursue funding options.

"It was a long negotiation process," said TSRA Board Vice-president Bob Goldsberry. "Both parties came together. Now it is just a matter of getting the track repaired and getting ready for Thomas the Tank Engine in October."

The TSRA had previously voted to contract the repairs of the track to AHR.

Mr. Goldsberry said track repairs could begin as soon as today. He also stated that the TSRA expects to receive the $2 million from the state by Sept. 30, saying that the process is moving along, and board members are working with the Legislative Budget Board to acquire the funding.

The TSRA has already received funds for the track repairs.

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