Transportation Group Concerned Falling Asset Values Shown in Audit

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Photo by Linda Cicoira – A view of the Cape Charles rail yard from the overpass.

By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack-Northampton Transportation District Commission was audited for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2018, and not all of its members were satisfied with the results.

The ANTDC operates the Eastern Shore’s public bus system, STAR Transit, and monitors the lease of the railroad. The Jan. 7 meeting was the first time since the ANTDC was re-organized in June that its auditor formally discussed its finances with the new commissioners.

“This balance sheet is garbage, and it’s not your fault,” Vice Chairman John Coker told auditor Jeff Mitchell.

Coker questioned the accuracy of the list of ANTDC’s assets and their accumulated depreciation. Some assets are being sold off, and the remaining assets have not been evaluated in years.

“We have a lot of what used to be assets that are now scrap value assets … they’re not worth anything. … Just look at the barge,” Coker said.  He was referring to the Nandua, the barge that once transported rail cars from Cape Charles across the Chesapeake Bay. 

“That’s probably the 1.8 (million dollar asset listed as marine equipment), which … frankly, was sold for less than $200,000,” he continued.

The barge’s sale occurred less than a decade after Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Accomack and Northampton counties had previously invested a total of $1 million to repair the barge for future use.

A document distributed at the public meeting showed the Nandua was sold to a used equipment dealer, Iron Planet, for $179,805.

Coker was concerned that many of ANTDC’s assets will be “written off” and “all of a sudden, our assets are going to drop by about 3 million bucks, with nothing to show for it.”

Former commissioners maintained that ANTDC assets total more than $10 million.

Assistant Secretary Janice Williams recalled that the previous commission would always say, “We’re fine with this number that’s on the books, we’re not going to go incur an appraisal fee to tell us what this new value is.”

Commissioner Spencer Murray believes “beyond a shadow of a doubt” that ANTDC’s assets are worth at least $10 million, but he suggested the organization may want to start new record books as of Jan. 1.

Coker said, “It’s time, this year, to fix this.” ANTDC’s remaining assets are mostly land, and its old railroad equipment is “gone. We don’t own any engines and the cars are all junk.”

Commissioners don’t want to waste money fixing the problem. Williams will assist in searching through old records for more information on ANTDC’s assets and their value.

Since the June re-organization, which occurred around the same time Bay Coast Railroad ceased operations in Cape Charles, public entity ANTDC has shared its board members with private company Canonie Atlantic, and they co-own the railroad. 

Murray was concerned with having a clear understanding of the relationship between the two organizations and following proper procedure as old railroad assets are sold. 

ANTDC owns all the railroad assets, because it owns 100 percent of Canonie Atlantic’s stock, or one sole share, he explained.

Mitchell advised ANTDC to report all the assets and handle any future sale.

The assets include 40.1 acres in Northampton worth $4 million, deeded to Canonie Atlantic, and the Cape Charles rail yard that was recently cleaned up and is ready to be sold, Murray said.

The railroad no longer runs in Cape Charles, but it is under lease to the Delmarva Central Railroad, operating between Hallwood and Pocomoke City, Md., and Buckingham Branch Railroad, operating across the bay in Little Creek.