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Jim Thorpe, Reading & Northern at odds over amusement fee

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    Hundreds of cycling enthusiast boarded a bike train in Jim Thorpe for a scenic 25 mile train ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway to White Haven where they disembarked for a bike ride back down the gorge to their starting point in the town.  

Published October 05. 2019 06:59AM

 

A question over Reading and Northern Railroad’s legal obligation to pay an amusement tax for its rides along the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway in Jim Thorpe has hit the courtroom.

Berkheimer Tax Administrator, the collections agent for Jim Thorpe Borough and Jim Thorpe Area School District filed a civil lawsuit in Carbon County Court on Sept. 11 against the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, a sister company of Reading and Northern. In the complaint, Berkheimer states it is seeking amusement taxes from the railroad for 2016, 2017 and 2018, totaling an estimated $95,971.39.

The borough collects a 5% amusement tax from businesses that provide “any manner or form of entertainment,” like the Mauch Chunk Opera House, for example. Jim Thorpe Area School District also collects a 2.5% amusement tax.

The tax is generally added to the ticket or admission price of the event or activity.

“(Lehigh Gorge) has failed to adequately file property tax returns as required for each tax year,” the complaint states. “The estimate of taxes owed is based upon an approximation of ticket sales and price per ticket sold per month for the tax year 2016.”

If Reading and Northern paid the tax, it would generate around $20,000 for the borough, council members estimated on Thursday.

Council President Greg Strubinger said the decision for Reading and Northern CEO Andy Muller should be an easy one: comply with the law.

“It’s a pass through tax,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what the issue is. Other businesses pay it and don’t question it.”

Rumors have spread on social media over the past few weeks that Muller would consider stopping the scenic train rides in Jim Thorpe over the amusement tax issue. Railroad representatives did not immediately respond to questions on the issue Friday.

Jason Mosher, a High Street resident in Jim Thorpe, said it would be catastrophic if Muller pulled the train rides out of Jim Thorpe.

Plenty of people come to the town just to see the train, let alone ride it, he said.

“I think $20,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the revenue this town would lose if it were gone,” Mosher said.

Broadway resident Lisa Gaugler concurred, calling the train rides an integral part of the community.

Council members said they are trying to get Muller to come to the table and talk about the issue, but he hasn’t responded.

“He has to pay the tax,” Jay Miller, council vice-president, said. “That’s my position. The town will not collapse because of this train station. This is unfair to the businesses who do pay the tax.”

The loss of scenic train rides in Jim Thorpe would undoubtedly send ripples throughout the local business community, but Jim Thorpe Tourism Agency acting president Michael Rivkin said a two-sided conversation does need to happen.

“There are folks here on council trying to get (Muller) to the table,” Rivkin said. “They are willing to sit down and talk about a solution. He needs to come to the table.”

During Jim Thorpe’s recent upgrades to its sewer plant and the construction of a Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor pedestrian bridge downtown, the borough paid Reading and Northern a collective $603,170 for a flagger to be present at the rail crossing to comply with federal regulations. On many of those days, borough officials said, the track sat empty. Norfolk Southern, the other rail company in Jim Thorpe, waived the flagger fees.

“Nobody here and nobody at the D & L argued with that,” Jim Thorpe Mayor Mike Sofranko said. “We just paid it, and it was essentially a tax, because it was for the betterment of the borough. That grant money could have been spent anywhere else but it was given to a railroad to cross cars as tankers just sat there. The other railroad charged this borough nothing. At $20,000 a year of amusement tax, the money he just got would pay that tax for a long time. I like Andy, but it’s time to man up.”

Borough officials said they would continue to reach out to Muller in the hopes a conversation on the issue could take place.

“We have been able to meet over the years on various occasions over different issues with the railroad,” Strubinger said. “We’re certainly hoping for a resolution.”

 

Comments
Greedy motherf@6k3rs! I will laugh if the railroad pulls out of town! What more do these people want? The County taxes everything on top of this, $10 to park in the God-damned county lot, parking kiosks and meters all over the place, lodging taxes, amusement taxes and the state just approved a freaking craft beer tax! What is going on here? Here cut my left arm off cuz this queer ain't having any first-born! Take it, take it all!
After reading the comments from our borough council this proves the incompetence of the borough officials, The townspeople of Jim Thorpe are paying borough officials for their inadequate incompetent mishandling of funds and now want to tax, fine anyone they can to cover up the fact that they can’t do their jobs. Time to stop Voting for these wastes with a beer and a hand shake just because they’re your friends doesn’t mean they know what they are doing...
I wouldnt pay if I was them. Not only can they just stop the train rides all together, that alone will lose this town well over 100k a year due to how many people come on trains and come to see the train, but they can also decide to not rent that stretch of track to anybody leaving that stretch of track useless. It will also hurt alot of downtown businesses due to the amount of people the train brings in. The winery in the park alone, 75 percent of the customers that walk through that door are first time Jim Thorpe visitors that arrived on the the train. So imagine the impact it will have. If I am not mistaken, they dont really make any money off the train rides, they almost break even, its more of a service to Jim Thorpe to try and bring business to the town. You should be thanking them.
I find Jim Thorpe sleazy, with the feeling everything is driven by money. Paid parking on every square inch of some roads, including dirt holes on the outskirts. It's a shame - there are some very nice shops and restaurants and it could be very quaint. This article mentions $96K, and then veers off into $20K quotes. Reader is left to wonder if it means $20K a year. Jim Thorpe paid a whopping $600K+ for a flagger, and they are upset about $20K? If the railroad concession pulls out, it won't be pretty for Jim Thorpe - not at all.
Oh don't go get so sympathetic for the railroad CEO, he has been taking in millions in taxpayer money for upgrades and improvements thru grants pushed by Sen. Argall and others. And what does the CEO do, one example is the high bridge north of Tamaqua, the Ceo got millions of taxpayer dollars for upgrades to the railroad bridge and what gratitude did he show, he immediately and permanently closed down the access road to the nearby State Game lands 227 that had been open for over 50 years and tore down all the State Game Lands signs, now hunters can no longer gain easy entry to the Game Land. However on more than one occasion I've seen his Railroad people open the locked gate, drive in and hunt, so now what once belonged to the public hunters is now his defacto private reserve. The Railroad is taking millions in tax dollars and more in the Jim Thorpe train rides but doesn't want to pay his fair share. Sounds like just another taker mooching off the taxpayers and thumbing his nose at the public and hunters as he rakes in millions. Sorry, no sympathy for the robber barons is needed or deserved.
We the people paid for that bridge many times over and it belongs to us. Cut the lock. I will when I go there to see for myself. If company men are allowed special access to hunt land I paid for they might want to post a vehicle guard during their walk in the woods. I wouldn't want them to have a bad day hunting my land.
Jim Thorpe is a matter of fact very sleazy, corrupt, and mismanaged. Not to mention the incompetence and indifference demonstrated by the mayor, council members, and entrepreneurs. Unable and unwilling to manage the hoards of tourists wreaking havoc on our natural resources, infrastructure, and quality of life. You would have to be a special kind of stupid to even suggest that someone else pick up the tab for an expense that helps to generate a tremendous amount of revenue for yourself. (And no. Tax generated by Jim Thorpe businesses do not come close to compensating the state and county tax paying citizens for the damage and depletion of our natural resources.) Railroad money is tax payor money so if they, Jim Thorpe, gets any money from the railroad its origin is the tax payor. The railroad is unarguably not a golden egg laying goose anymore. Neither is the tax payor or the state of PA which is also a frequent target for extortion by council, mayor and business owners. You behave and are dishonest like the industrial Barrons of yesteryear. Think you're so smart? Please state what is the operating ratio for the railroad V.s. the operating ratio of an average Jim Thorpe business owner? Like I said These Jim Thorpe people are a special kind of stupid. Very special. Winter is around the corner so I understand it's beginning to get cold out. Put your hands in your own pocket. P.S. any 2.5% amusement tax payments to the Jim Thorpe School District must be suspended immediately until the tax payor can audit the audit that exposes the inappropriate use of the free money we give them. I'm also very sure of it that the massive wind farm being constructed containing the tallest turbines in the USA will not be a tourist attraction but a tourist repellent. No. Oh yes. Can you say STUPID?
You hit the nail on the head with this post. Are they still ripping off the townsfolk on their water bills? 13 bills over 12 months, estimated usage and forced "upgrades" that only benefited the councils friends and family. I'm glad I'm out of that town and look forward to leaving "Corrupt County" again in the near future.
In the 1930s family name of Morrison moved in Jim Thorpe. Harry work for the central railroad in New Jersey. Kenneth work for local grocery stores like thecIn the 1930s family name of Morrison moved in Jim Thorpe. Harry work for the central railroad of New Jersey. Kenneth work for local grocery stores like the hometown IGA. They rented apartments and kept A small consistent cash flow in the town. We forget that the Ailing E Paul Gangwere met with Hollywood moguls in the largest name in British history Sir Sean Connery. We forget the Maguires. Also I’ve been trying to kick around the idea of MasterChef of writing them to ask if we could do a contest at ASa Packer mansion. I competed in the Ironhorse cookery MasterChef in Nevada 284 miles north of Las Vegas. The common theme here it’s steam locomotives and what my family represents. When George died and Andy was going to take over the property I was on that 1992 train. The reinvestment in the community and our commitment as a railroad reinvest the entire community to which Andy created the Reading rambles in the number of 800 to 1200 people per railroad train come to Jim Thorpe on a Saturday and a Sunday. In addition he uses diesel and steam locomotives. In the recent past Reading 2102 In the article released on their website is almost done within the next one year. The tourism in the article released on their website is almost done within the next one year. The tourism that I’m encouraging is major players in the screen actors Guild, Hollywood scene, In the greatest in the greatest of television series. I volunteer on the Delaware river railroad that I’ve meet Hollywood’s best sometimes every weekend. I send them to Jim Thorpe to the Reading and northern railroad to encourage tourism and to give Andy customers. The last people I talk to made major motion pictures like Star Wars, Star Trek,And several number one rated television shows that I am 3 feet away from the individual. I am I rig And several number one rated television shows that I am 3 feet away from the individual. I am Angry that I spent 4 years of my life sending The best talent ever created to Jim Thorpe Pennsylvania. How dare you take a baseball bat and discipline somebody who was brought millions of dollars to Jim Thorpe? Do you see how we use people when we need a quick dollar. And yeah I sit with people on a daily basis in New Jersey bragging about our community where my family started to the multimillion dollar SAG representatives that patronize our railroad. I tell people on a daily basis about Reading and Northern and great Reading rambles. You have no right telling him to do this when I have sent $1 billion of talent up to the railroad and Jim Thorpe bragging about our community. Leave him at his business. When that Reading T1 locomotive comes alive she’ll go to Jim Thorpe with thousands and thousands of fans who will patronize the city. In the research of steam in America to Strasburg rail Road currently has Norfolk and western 611. When I was down there 10 to 20,000 people attended one day. How dare he discipline a man who brought you Billions of dollars in restaurant trade, purchasing local items and patronizing the largest movie in the world called Molly Maguire‘s. Some of the people that I have met including the star of the motion picture himself that I met in a New Jersey restaurant several months ago patronize our area. Rethink your your personal decision making when you do not look at the business plan that Andy has created. In the last four years I have set television shows like Star Trek, 9/11, Star Wars, Alice, all soap operas, friends and compatriots of the movie titanic to which my family is a part of, Twister, terminators all motion pictures, space 1999, all Gerry Anderson productions,Andromeda, Doctor Who, The movies that you forget like ad Astra patronize different railroads in the area. Also the Carol Burnett show, many comedians, X-Files, have patronized the real roads in our area and I brag to them about the great business in Jim Thorpe. How dare he put it all the time to destroy a man’s business like this when. The blood of my great uncle Harry, and the man who fired that T1 Willard Morrison you are Scorning my family. I am also sitting with motion pictures yet to be released whether it’s the accountants, stars or camera people of Midway, terminator, I am also sitting with motion pictures yet to be released whether it’s the accountants, stars or camera people of Midway, terminator, Please rethink your thinking. The steam locomotive will be in your town for four days in the next two weeks. There is not a ride or a day On the railroad I volunteer for that I do not talk about the great community i’ve Jim Thorpe. I sat with singer Mariah Carey bragging about Jim Thorpe. How about the show master chef and doing a contest? No let’s stick it to the businessman bringing monies and taxes to the local municipality. Slide them in the face it’s all right. Only when he leaves and the trains are there no more will you regret what you do.










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