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John Myers, Forum Communications Co., Published November 19 2010

State of Minnesota has lien against Scenic Railroad

For at least the second time in the past 15 months, the North Shore Scenic Railroad has made the Minnesota Department of Revenue list of businesses prohibited from purchasing liquor, beer or wine after being delinquent in paying state taxes.

The department updates the list each month to reflect businesses and institutions that failed to pay the previous month’s liquor or sales taxes to the state. They can still sell alcohol but can’t buy more until the liquor taxes are paid.

The Historic Union Depot, listed as a separate entity, is also on the list for November and was listed in June. Together, the two entities have appeared on the list at least four times.

Ken Buehler, executive director of both the Depot and the scenic railroad, said he simply failed to pay the monthly tax payment on time for both institutions.

“It’s my fault. I’m all the staff for this stuff, so it was one of my jobs, along with worrying about steam engines, insurance and the price of coal by the ton,” Buehler said Thursday. “We used to get a monthly reminder from the state with a card where we filled in our sales and multiplied it by the (tax) percentage and mailed in a check. ... Now, there is no reminder and we have to remember to go online every month to pay electronically. It’s such a small part of our business that I forget about it.”

Buehler said he thought the total owed was about $200. But the Minnesota Department of Revenue this week filed a $2,500 lien against the scenic railroad and a separate $3,042 lien against the Depot for unpaid sales and liquor taxes for the past two months.

Buehler said Thursday he was bringing the recent sales receipts to the railroad’s local accounting firm and would hire the firm to make the monthly reports and payment from now on.

Ed Robinson, a Twin Cities accountant who serves as treasurer of the Depot’s Board of Directors, said he was unaware of the unpaid taxes.

“It may have slipped through the cracks, but I will make sure it gets fixed,” Robinson said. “We can safely say there is no cash shortage or anything, so it’s a matter of making sure we get the payments in. I’ll see to that.”

John Myers is a writer for the Duluth News Tribune