The fate of Mount Sima will be determined next Monday.
Yesterday, council examined the costs of three different scenarios for the ski hill: bail out the non-profit group that operates it, temporarily close it, or shut it down for good.
City council has been debating the potential loss of the hill since March, when the Great Northern Ski Society asked for $800,000 to keep operations going. That number was reduced to $622,221 after two public summits in May, when the group teamed up with residents to come up with solutions for the ski hill’s debt.
The group presented city officials and council with a new business plan last week. Unimpressed, council talked more about mothballing or closing down the facility completely.
It turns out there’s not much of a difference for either scenario, as the city would foot the bill for administrative, legal and maintenance fees if the group dissolves. It would cost $549,921 to close the hill temporarily and $462,221 to shut it down completely. However, those numbers are just estimates, said acting city manager Brian Crist.
Mayor Dan Curtis stuck to his initial reaction last week – that it is impossible to grant more money to the group, as the only way the city can do so is by cutting municipal programs or raising taxes. “It has to be a community solution, not a mayor and council solution, not a City of Whitehorse solution. We don’t have $622,000,” he said.
Dave Stockdale pointed out that the difference between funding the ski hill or mothballing the facility is only $72,000, and that city officials could also look into tinkering with the group’s business plan. The group could also talk to the territorial government to explore more sports funding, said Linda Rapp with the Department of Community Services.
Some councillors also expressed concern over the new ski lift, as the city doled out a total of $3 million to the group to replace the old chairlift in 2010 and 2011. “We need to find a way to pay for it so that we ensure the asset goes back to us,” said Coun. John Streicker. He also asked officials if they knew how much it would cost to sell it in parts or as a whole.
Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu said that the city needs to look into if there even is a market for used ski lifts. She proposed lending the group their immediate request of $192,000 to pay off the outstanding debt of the chairlift instead. If they dissolved, it would revert to the city immediately. “It’s better than just turning over the money,” she said.
While Curtis acknowledged Curteanu’s creative solution, he reminded everyone that the lift still belongs to the group, until it dissolves. Coun. Betty Irwin agreed.
“I didn’t want to start a prolonged discussion on the chairlift, that maybe we should put it on Kijiji,” she said.
No one from the Great Northern Ski Society commented at the meeting. Council will decide whether or not to grant the group funding on June 24.
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