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Lehigh Gorge railway pulling out of Thorpe after amusement tax tiff

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    Old Mauch Chunk Train Station FILE PHOTO

Published October 16. 2019 11:25AM


Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway announced today that it is ceasing operations in Jim Thorpe on Nov. 25.

The decision comes after the company and Jim Thorpe Borough Council could not reach an understanding regarding the amusement tax.

“(Reading Blue Mountain and Northern) is in the freight business. That is where we make our money,” said Andy Muller Jr., president and CEO of the company, in a press release this morning. “I have offered passenger excursion rides to local communities as a way of thanking them for their support over the years and to educate young and old in the glorious role railroads in this region played in our country’s industrial revolution.

“Since it is clear that the mayor and borough council do not care about what we have done to assist Jim Thorpe over the last 15 years, a period in which Jim Thorpe Borough government has done nothing to assist the railroads, I have decided to focus our energies on communities that want to work with the railroads.”

Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway began operating excursion rides out of Jim Thorpe 15 years ago.

It invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in facilities and equipment including its open air cars and bike train to put together a ride that has been a significant draw to rail enthusiasts and families alike.

LGSR along with its sister railroad, Reading Blue Mountain and Northern, brought over a million people to Jim Thorpe over the past decade through excursions both departing from Jim Thorpe and coming into Jim Thorpe from Port Clinton and beyond.

“While I feel terrible for our loyal employees, our repeat customers and Jim Thorpe merchants who have supported our excursion trains, there is no reason for us to stay where we are not welcome,” Muller said.

The issue arose earlier this month when Berkheimer, representing Jim Thorpe Borough, filed a suit against the train for nearly $100,000 in amusement taxes for the past three years.

In the release from Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, “LGSR has made it clear to the borough council that it is not an amusement and it will not pay any so-called amusement tax.”

As a result, Muller said he will take “the passenger operations to towns that welcome the railroad with open arms.”

Refunds will be issued for all people who have already purchased tickets for the Santa trains.

Closure of LGSR does not affect RBMN passenger operations from other locations to Jim Thorpe.

RBMN plans to announce soon a new schedule of rides from other communities.


Good for them! It's about time the greedy ba$ tard$ stop preying on others. Perhaps the JT mayor and council will wake up and see what they've lost. Same goes for the school district, just another group with the "We'll do what we want, We'll take what we want" mentality.

Wake up you greedy hogs!
GOOD!!!! The greedy bastards in charge of Jim Thorpe deserve this. I hope they are pleased with themselves now.
This is sad for all of the beautiful little businesses in JT as well! Looks like Jim Thorpe could be losing a LOT more than what they would have made it their tax!
So for a nickels of extra taxes the borough leaders are willing to give up an essential part of what makes this town special. Imagine the money and taxes that will now be lost because people who come to JT for the train rides and then spend money in the town will now go elsewhere, and how many will no longer be introduced to the town because of this loss?
Lehighton will welcome you with open arms. Plenty of parking, resources and can always build and grow around the railway
Won't this be great for the town businesses? NOT. This is exactly what was predicted in comments on the last article. In another article, a council member said he was "blindsided" by this news. Really?
Everyone else saw it coming. Let's see how many of those parking spaces are filled now, with fees for parking from one end of town to the other. Fools.
The answer to everything is not increased taxes. Sooner of later people will take action as the Railroad just did. Last weekend just goes to show how important the foliage trains were. The town will see a big downturn. Thanks to to the council.
A fair way of solving this would be to ask how much the railroad made in the 3 years (deducting their operating costs) and see if the amusement tax would be an unfair burden. Of course they fit the definition of an amusement, but the real question is are they losing money or just barely breaking even. Let them open their books.
Honestly they say it is to thank the communities, if that was the case then the price would be significantly less. It 100% is an amusement, they are making money from those trains. Let's say you have 2 adults and 2 children over 3 that is $50 for 4 people. Let's say they fill only 1 train car for a trip, that is $4500. They offer 3 trips per day in the month of October, so let's just say they only fill 1 car each trip that is $13,500 per day and $418,500 per month. Now let's say that 75% of that is expenses (but let's be real it is not) that STILL leaves them with $104,625. Again this is 1 month, this is filling only 1 car per trip. Jim Thorpe is asking for $100k for 3 years so basically $33,333 per year. Please tell me why they should not pay taxes?
It's funny, a company that got over $40 million in grant money to get started is quibbling over $100,000 over three years? And people are slamming the borough? How much did the railroad charge for Flagger fees when they were doing construction in the area of the tracks?
Move on. Don't make the tax retroactive, but future. Then add it to the ticket. That's what happens everywhere else. Tourists pay a tax.
Failure to collect a tax you were supposed to collect does not forgive the tax owed. If you were a business owner and did not collect PA state sales tax, they do not forgive you. You will be required to pay the amount owed with penalties. This is the same thing. If you didn't pay your taxes and claimed oh I didn't know I had to the government does not forgive you, so why should Jim Thorpe cave to this?
Stupid, greedy move by Jim Thorpe. I never knew rafts on a river could be an amusement, until JT thought of it. Muller was right to pull out. It seemed that there was no end to how high JT could raise the parking rates. Now JT just might have their way. No pesky tourists to bother them on weekends. Hopefully, JT's loss will be Tamaqua's gain.
When you purchase a trip as a service it is an amusement. If you want to go on the river independently you can do so. Amusement tax refers to tax paid on various forms of entertainment. An amusement tax is expressed as a percentage of ticket prices. "Amusement tax" is any tax levied on any form of commercial entertainment. The train ride is not for transportation, it is for enjoyment and entertainment only. Ski resorts, rafting, biking, movie theaters ect., They are profiting so they pay it. Often you will see it added to your ticket or trip. Amusement tax is used all over the country it is not something Jim Thorpe invented. If you ever go on vacation you will pay an amusement tax on SOMETHING, it is also called an Entertainment tax, have you ever purchased a concert ticket? Yes, you paid this tax. A businesses failure to collect the tax from the consumer does not make lessen their responsibility to pay the tax. I would like to hear from Tamaqua, how would they pay for the increased traffic, parking issues and litter that comes with those tourist? Where do you think the money will come from? It will come from the residents, and the local business owners. Yes, more money will come in but wages won't increase in those businesses as taxes will increase on them and they won't be able to pass that money on to the residents and employees. Everyone wants to bring the tourist in until they are there and they can't park in front of their house because their spot has been taken, and if you think "I live far enough away" let me tell you people will walk, your town will set up shuttles and the residents will be out.
Jim Thorpe has become a tourist trap. But that's OK. It seems a major problem was always parking. Eliminate the attractions (train, hiking trail, parade etc...), and the parking problem goes away.
As for me? I pass by anymore. That $4.5M sewer bridge does make it easier for me to pass by, so thanks for that.
The article said they are primarily in the freight business. What freight do they carry. The TN always lets out important info. If is it really a freight business, i can see their argument. But if that is just a cover and they primarily carry passengers for joy rides, then they are lying. Either way the local stores get hurt, the rr workers get hurt, JT as a destination gets hurt, yet the JT people that make these decisions really do not get hurt, at least right away. TN, you should look that the RRS financials and see who is telling the truth, then we can all make educated or informed opinions.
I guess I have a question. When you buy a ticket from the Opera House, the ticket shows an amusement tax, does the train ticket? If it does, he's been collecting a tax that they haven't been paying. I am not against the railroad paying a tax, but it seems that the borough is doing it out of spite since paying that flagger 600K. My question to the borough, if he was supposed to pay this tax for the last how many years, who over looked the fact that no taxes were paid, or an attempt to collect taxes for the last 15 years? That was a question asked multiple times at the town meeting with no answers. This is gonna hurt the town if this is the case, but I doubt this will be the last time we hear about this.
RR owner charged the Borough(read taxpayers) almost $600,000 to provide a flagger for the sewer plant upgrade. Over 4 years do you think the flagger made $150,000 a year? If the downtown business's feel this is life or death for them then let them pay it. Taxpayers should not be required to. If he wants to walk away from 147,000 passengers a year as a matter of principle I say let him. I am sure there will be another company to fill in the void. Throughout my life I have found when one door closes a better opportunity always steps in.
I saw a red hat wearing MAGA pig being interviewed at the railroad station on TV,so if this amusement is bringing more white trash to town I say Shut er down.
Why so much hate for Republicans? You and the other guy hurl insults all day and blame Republicans for anything you don't like. Is this to cause a shatstorm? I bet my last food stamp if we were to talk smack about a Democrat you would need a sippy cup, blanky and quiet space. But we don't. I've watched the Dem debates and follow their social media accounts. The only person they have that might beat Trump is a fag. Oh and I can call him that we both pack the fudge. I mean really who do you guys have that can beat Trump? The slanted eye guy has some ridiculous ideas, the hag from Cali is a drama queen, the old lady has no clue what's going on I think she has Alzheimers and Joe exhibits signs of mental disorder. Beto and the other guy well they aint gonna win lets say that. So you have Pete Buttguy....the only one that seems to know what's going on in the world and has solid plans to make a difference. Do you want a queer in charge? No you probably don't. You need to learn to love everyone. Realize everyone has ideas/opinions that are all valid. This LGBTQ Republican is gonna vote for Trump again, unless Buttguy magically appears at my door and takes one for the team.
I think these people that are full of hate are assuming Trump will take or reduce their welfare, Hud, medicaid, free, cash, food stamps. Relax, he won't. Open boarder will though because even a moron can figure out there is only so much money floating around and at some point, tax payers will say no more.
"The power to tax involves the power to destroy." - Chief Justice John Marshall in McColluch vs. Maryland (1819).

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