Is Great Smoky Mountain Railroad serious?

To the Editor:

At first the shakedown to the county was over $817,000 in grants and loans. Then, seeing that was a totally ridiculous sum, the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad slashed their ‘request’ to $95,176 in cash and $322,000 in a revolving loan.

Information from public records requests indicates that neither of these two requests for public money has been in the proper format using the proper forms that the county has asked for. And all of this jockeying (including a photo-op at the Feb. 21 commissioner’s meeting) to bring the train to Dillsboro for approximately 110 days a year for “specialty” events and provide a few part-time seasonal jobs? Do what?

Why can’t the GSMR get its act together and provide the county with the requested loan information to be able to make the decision about whether they can repay our money? What kind of people is Al Harper employing who seemingly can’t follow directions? Is it fiscally responsible to lend money to a business that has to be publicly embarrassed into paying its taxes? Why can’t they go to the bank (like you or I would have to) and borrow the money? Or is all this about getting from the public treasury while the getting is good?

Soon, the state of North Carolina is going to put a lot of financial burdens onto the counties that haven’t been there before. Jackson County has a small cushion of savings (somewhat more than most other N.C. counties). It is highly likely that we are going to need that cushion when the state transfers many responsibilities to the counties. It’s not a pleasant prospect.

Reportedly the GSMR made an 18-percent profit last year. Instead of hijacking us, the responsible thing for them to do is to re-invest their own money back into their own business, otherwise it is not a free market. Is Al Harper serious? This is all a joke, right?

Carl Iobst


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