CORINNE, Utah (AP) -- This year's Corinne ghost-train ride was called off amid questions of whether it was a profit-making enterprise for the mayor.
Councilwoman Shara Ward said Mayor Deverle Wells personally profited from charging children to ride a Halloween-themed Box Elder County-owned tourism vehicle last year.
The train actually is a county truck that in 1995 Wells helped remodel to look like a train, using parts donated by local businesses. The county has since used the vehicle, which can accommodate about 35 passengers, to show off attractions.
Wells stored the vehicle on his property until a storage shed was built and served as one of the two drivers.
Last Halloween, Wells decorated the vehicle as a ghost train and took people for 30-minute rides where "ghouls" jumped out on a route that included a trip through Corinne Cemetery.
Wells said he did not make money from the ride and that there was no charge, but a dollar donation was suggested.
Ward, however, said admission was charged.
"He knows he was exploiting the county," Ward said.
Corinne PTA President Kathy Norman also said admission was charged, at a rate of $2 per person or $10 per family.
Wells was asked by the Standard-Examiner to clarify whether admission was charged.
"I'd have to check back and see," he said. "I'd have to check my records."
When asked to provide information from his records, Wells declined to make any other comment.
Beth Gurrister, chairwoman of the Box Elder County Tourism Board, said she was not aware that admission was charged last year.
"He (Wells) wanted to charge this time, and we said this could not be done," she said. "People may have made a donation (last year)."
Wells said he planned to charge admission for this year's ride, but that he never intended to keep the money for himself. The ride costs money to run, he said, and he wanted to pay the approximately 20 people who act as spooks.
The vehicle costs about $200 per day to operate, Gurrister said, with maintenance costs and the gas to drive it to and from sites.
The train was going to make an appearance at the PTA's Pumpkin Alley, and the PTA was to get a percentage of the profit for that night.
Gurrister said, "Deverle (Wells) has not made any money on this; he's invested a great deal of his own money in it. The only reason he started to ask for a charge to ride on the train was to help pay for the volunteers who were helping with this. The intentions were appropriate, but legally we cannot handle things that way."
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)