County delegation lets Gunstock borrow $600k to carry resort over until ski season beginsBy BEA LEWIS
Union Leader Correspondent
August 30. 2018 10:43AM
LACONIA — After a dire financial picture was painted by Gunstock management, the Belknap County Delegation voted Wednesday to give the Gunstock Area Commission authority to borrow $600,000 to fund fall operations until ski season revenue comes in.
“We’re basically in a hand-to-mouth situation right now,” Gunstock General Manager Gregg Goddard told the delegation of the resort’s current financial situation.
Rep. Herb Vadney, who chairs the delegation, drew the ire of the standing-room-only crowd when he said the issue was one of taxes, drawing shouts of “no.”
“We’re here for the community,” yelled one woman.
When Rep. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, asked the audience how many people in attendance were in support of the bridge loan a sea of hands shot up.
Diane Hanley of Gilford said she wanted delegation members who opposed the borrowing to explain the rationale for deferring maintenance.
“For those who want to privatize it, how you going to sell it if you allow it to go down the dumper?,” she said, prompting applause.
Heidi Pruess, an Olympic downhill skier, credited Gunstock with helping her learn the sport and becoming the person she is today.
“If we lose this resource over something this silly — it’s just ridiculous,” she said.
Elisa Leadbeater of Gilford, former economic development director for Belknap County, said Gunstock is not just a community recreational amenity but a significant economic driver and praised the management for the foresight taken to extend the season.
“This is shortsightedness on the part of the county not to do this revenue bond,” she said.
Cindy Baron of Gilford said she has worked in the construction industry most of her life and that having to borrow money before season is a fact of life.
“With the history of repayment behind them I don’t see why you folks would deny them the right to run their business they way they have in the past,” she said.
Woody Fogg of Belmont, who served 15 years on the Gunstock Area Commission, said a no vote was neither prudent or in the best interest of the county. Without the revenue administration note the resort won’t be able to meet its obligations and it will cost the county, he warned.
Supporters of the county-owned ski area had hoped the delegation would reverse course and muster the needed two-thirds majority vote to approve the needed bridge loan in June when an identical request fell one vote shy, 9 to 6, with two lawmakers absent.
On Wednesday, Rep. Glen Aldrich, R-Gilford, was again absent. On a motion by Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, and seconded by Denis Fields, R-Sanbornton, the delegation voted 14 to 2 to approve the borrowing. Rep. Ray Howard Jr., R-Alton and Rep. Norm Silber, R-Gilford, opposed.
The prior no vote marked the first time in the recreation area’s 81-year history that the delegation has declined to grant borrowing authority to Gunstock, which has never defaulted on a loan.
Gunstock General Manager Greg Goddard told the Gunstock Area Commission during its Aug. 21 meeting that hot humid weather and rain had combined to flatten revenue and that despite exceeding the savings realized by an austerity plan adopted in the wake of the no vote, the resort could be in the red by as much as a half million dollars by November.
In July, total revenue was $183,000 less than the budget forecast. Current cash on hand was less than $100,000 Goddard told the delegation.
Less than anticipated revenues coupled with some unanticipated expenses, including a transformer failure attributed to an electrical storm and a flooded rental shop when the sump pumps were turned off and an alarm failed to sound. required payment of $20,000 in insurance deductibles.
“All you people out there complain about (a lack of) affordable housing. This is not how you get affordable housing,” said Rep. Howard Jr., before casting his no vote.