More talks on White Pine ski area
Looking for ways to open for the upcoming ski season
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
October 3, 2011
The Citizens to Save White Pine (CSWP) asked to be on the agenda for the Sublette County Commissioners Monday, October 3rd regular meeting. This was their third meeting with the Commissioners to discuss their hope to get some measure of funding support from the County to help get the ski area open for the upcoming winter alpine ski season.
Their proposals have ranged from asking the Commissioners to buy out their entire interest and take over running the whole resort operation to some smaller level of leasing of the lift and recreational services for the citizenry. The CSWP say money is needed to pay for the lift inspection, insurance, groomer maintenance, employees, and other things required to open for the new ski season. They have been hampered in their efforts by the fact that the group is a for-profit business and not a non-profit entity, precluding most avenues of taxpayer support that can be offered by government entities.
This meeting was also announced as a Special Meeting by the Pinedale Town Council, of which three members attended: Chris House, Nylla Kunard and Michael Kudar.
Attending for the Citizens to Save White Pine business group were Ken Konicek and Dale Hill.
Dale Hill said the purpose of the meeting was for the CSWP group to ask Sublette County to contract for the alpine skiing services at White Pine for the 2011-2012 winter season. This was one of the options that had been proposed at the previous meeting on September 27th. The idea would be for a contract for services, not to exceed a certain amount.
Ken Konicek said this was a one-year proposal to keep the ski hill open for the short term while the CSWP members continued to explore other long-term options of a non-profit group taking over, the sale of the facility or any other option that might materialize. The group has said in the past they do not want to continue to run the operation for the long-term.
Commissioners John Linn and Andy Nelson asked a series of questions regarding costs for various aspects of the operation and pieces of equipment, whittling the asked for costs from $130,000 down to about $82,000. The County has already committed to continue plowing the road, which costs $30,000 per year, aside from the ski area operation costs.
The Commissioners asked if the Town of Pinedale and Sublette County School District #1 would be willing to put money into an equal split on sharing the cost for the winter operation, to shares of about $28,000 each.
Pinedale Town Councilman Michael Kudar said he was in favor of supporting the ski area, but if Town money was put behind it, he wanted to know for certain that the CSWP planned to open it. Nylla Kunard said her concern was the Town budget season was already set and they would need to go through accounts to see if they could come up with additional funds for this. Councilman Chris House said it definitely was a worthwhile cause, but they needed to look at it more closely. He said they were only approached by this idea that morning.
No one was present to speak on behalf of the school system. Konicek said they hoped to get a commitment from the Commissioners that they could then take to the school board to ask for their support.
Serese Kudar, representing the Pinedale Travel and Tourism Commission, said they already have publicity for White Pine ski area included in their general marketing for area skiing. She said they planned to work aggressively to get the word out about season passes and hotels.
Dave Bell, representing the Sublette County Recreation Board, emphasized the importance of the budget frustrations with the grooming issue and trying to get that resolved to bring certainty to the operation. Options were rehashed regarding repairs, new groomers and leasing a used groomer.
One citizen spoke out against public money being used to benefit a private business.
Dale Hill said they weren’t asking for money. They would do things on an invoice/voucher method. He said everything is in place and ready to move ahead. He said the community as a whole needs to look at getting the 501c3 non-profit organization set up that would take over running the operation.
Ken Konicek said the CSWP would sell the operation to the 501c3 group, which would be run by someone else, not CSWP. "It is going to have to be a community attempt to save the resort," he said. "Who will help fund the shortfall?" he asked. "Do we really have a group in the community who wants to help save this?"
Commissioner Nelson said he would be looking at equal partnerships from the school, Town of Pinedale and other interested parties from here on out to be able to justify continuing on this.
Commission Chair Joel Bousman reiterated his position that he feels it is inappropriate to put public money into a private business. He asked if there were any motions from the other two Commissioners, to which they said they planned no action at this point on the matter. They hoped the Town of Pinedale, Sublette County School District #1, Sublette BOCES, Pinedale Tourism Board, Sublette Economic Development Council, Sublette County Ski & Snowboard Association, Chamber of Commerce and any other interested parties might pitch in to help CSWP in some meaningful fashion to continue moving the discussion forward.
Talks on White Pine continue - Pinedale Online, Sept. 28, 2011
Commissioners keep White Pine’s glimmer of hope alive - Pinedale Roundup, Sept. 22, 2011
County considers White Pine assistance - Sublette Examiner, Sept. 20, 2011
Sublette Commissioners meet with Citizens group to discuss White Pine ski area - Pinedale Online, Sept. 19, 2011
White Pine to be closed this winter - Pinedale Roundup, Sept. 15, 2011
White Pine ski area suspends operations - Pinedale Online, Sept. 13, 2011