I want to be clear that I completely respect the work Sean Banks and Kate Bigelow do for the ski club (despite what a letter I sent as a disgruntled parent may suggest). They are not the issue. If the ski club were run as an arms length non-profit I would be concerned naught with its operations.
However, Town Council made it an election issue when they purchased the assets of the ski club. Now the financial stability of the ski club is an interest of town taxpayers.
The town took on a $752325 debenture to fund the purchase and installation of the chairlift, as well as $105000 from the municipal reserve. Another $70000 is listed as “town at large”. Thus, the total cost is $927325.
As well, the 2013 budget shows a budgeted expense of $157275 for the chairlift. Thus, the total price tag so far is $1084600.
Council also approved the town to pay the rental costs of a generator for the chairlift, as well as the fuel, with the understanding that the funds would be paid back by the ski club. The town then paid another $48602.76 for an electrical invoice. My understanding is that the charges for the generator, fuel, and electrical have not yet been repaid by the ski club. If not, the total bill now sits at well over $1.1 million.
Finally, Mayor Mann, in his Mayor’s Musings, attempts to link the purchase of the chairlift to a record number of visitors at the hill this year. The number stated is 40000 users. This number stretches credibility given operational days, operational hours, the fact that this is a 300% increase from average years, and that the population of the surrounding area is nowhere near Nitehawk in Grande Prairie, which is hard pressed to hit 35000 in a year. Not to mention that Mayor Mann states projections suggested this would take 5 years and millions more dollars to achieve. As far as I know, no publicly available official figure has been released.
As such, these are the questions I would like answered at tonight’s AGM by the ski club.
Question #1. When will the aforementioned charges be repaid?
Question #2. As a new operations and maintenance agreement has not yet been finalized between the town and the ski club, is there a repayment agreement for future invoices?
Question #3. What were the revenue and expenses for the ski club in past years? What were those revenue and expenses this year? Did the off loading of chairlift construction costs and the aforementioned expenses improve the income statement?
Question #4. How much debt does the ski club currently carry? Is this debt sustainably repayable or does it put the ski club in financial peril?
Question #5. What were the visitor numbers for last season? How do they compare to previous seasons? Was the calculation methodology used this year acceptable by industry standards and the same as used in previous years?
Only time will tell if this was a “visionary” decision. In the meantime, all we can do as voters and taxpayers is ask for honesty, transparency, and thoughtful planning.