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Gunstock commissioners seek meeting with Belknap County delegation

Union Leader Correspondent

November 30. 2017 9:49PM
Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, left, receives a congratulatory handshake from Gunstock Resort General Manager Greg Goddard after being sworn in as the newest member of the Gunstock Area Commission. (Bea Lewis/Union Leader Correspondent)

GILFORD — The Gunstock Area Commission’s newest member was sworn in Wednesday night and his first move was to recommend that an olive branch be extended to members of the Belknap County delegation who have sponsored legislation seeking to amend the act creating the commission.

Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, who didn’t seek reelection to the House in 2016 to make a bid for state Senate, was elected to the five-member commission on Nov. 9.

House Bill 1702, sponsored by Rep. Valerie Fraser, (R-New Hampton), Rep. John Plummer, (R-Belmont), Rep. Ray Howard, (R-Alton) and Rep. Marc Abear, (R-Meredith) seeks to amend the 1959 act establishing the Gunstock Area Commission, the appointive body that oversees operations at the 2,200-acre resort.

If it were to become law, the Gunstock Area Commission would be required to submit financial and operational information to the County Convention for approval by a simple majority vote two months prior to the start of the fiscal year.

A strategic and business plan for the fiscal year, a plan of execution, the annual operating budget and any expected capital expenses would need to be submitted. It would become effective 60 days after its passage.

Stephan Nix of Gilford, who was earlier elected to chair the Gunstock Commission, agreed that it was a good idea to invite the sponsors of the bill to come to their Dec. 20 meeting and allow them the opportunity to make a presentation.

“A lot of times there can be misunderstanding with bills. These things have a way of appearing and disappearing. If we meet we can find what the likes and dislikes are and talk about it around a table instead of reading about it in the paper,” Gallagher said.

“I’m all for it,” said Gunstock Commissioner Robert Durfee of Laconia. Commissioner Ruth Larson of Alton made the successful motion to formally invite the bill sponsors to their Dec. 20 meeting to discuss the issue.

Gunstock General Manager Greg Goddard said most of the information that the bill’s sponsors are seeking is already being produced. The only problem he envisions is one of timing as the deadline date would likely put it back before February, conflicting with the resort’s fiscal year, which could be changed to accommodate it.

Gunstock’s practice of banking revenue in good years to help cover costs in poor snow years has been a bone of contention with some elected officials.

Over the last five years, the resort has been paying $175,000 annually into Belknap County coffers, but that agreement expired last December. While a one-year extension has been agreed to, efforts to negotiate the terms of a longterm successor agreement appear to have stalled.

In May, Rep. Norm Silber, (R-Gilford) made a motion to remove and replace all five members of the Gunstock Area Commission, arguing that under the statutory provisions there is a formula that requires Gunstock to return a certain percentage of “excess funds” to the county. He asserted that the commission is offering to extend the memorandum of understanding “without giving us a calculation as to the true number of what would vastly be in excess of $175,000.”

The motion, which died for a lack of a second, came during the same meeting when the Gunstock Area Commission sought a $650,000 revenue anticipation note from the Belknap County Delegation, money used to fund operations until the resort’s ski revenues start to come in. The note was approved.

In late September a delegation committee headed by Rep. Howard rejected the Gunstock Commission’s offer to pay the county $100,000 a year, plus five percent of Gunstock Mountain Resort’s operating income as a successor agreement.

Gunstock Area Commissioners are elected to a five-year term by the Belknap County Delegation and are charged under the original enabling legislation with operating, maintaining, developing, improving and promoting Gunstock for recreation and other purposes in support of recreational activities, and furthering public interest in them.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Durfee was elected Vice Chairman and Commissioner Russell Dumais of Gilford was voted in as Secretary.

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