Belleayre supporters irked by Mt. Snow stimulus funds
By Jay Braman Jr.
Recent news that Mount Snow Ski Center in Vermont is getting $25 million in federal stimulus funds has opened old wounds for the Coalition to Save Belleayre. It was the winter of 2009 when the coalition wanted federal economic stimulus funds to be used at the state-owned Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides $24.6 billion in additional funding for Medicaid, education, infrastructure and “shovel-ready” projects throughout New York State. Joe Kelly, chairman of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, said the ski center expansion fits the bill.
But the decision makers felt differently. Belleayre never got anything.
Now, Mount Snow will receive up to $25 million in zero interest bond financing, if the company is able to put the rest of its financing package together by the end of the year. The Mount Snow loan comes from $92.3 million in bond financing Vermont received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
What’s the story?
The program allows large projects to access lower interest loans from the tax-exempt market. Mount Snow is starting one of its largest renovation projects since the resort opened in 1954. The southern Vermont ski area hopes to replace two chairlifts, construct a 120-million gallon storage pond for snowmaking and install snowmaking guns.
Mount Snow expects the project to lead to about 17 new jobs within three years of the completion of the project.
“I don’t get it,” Kelly said Monday. “We were told by everyone… Judith Enck, everyone, that stimulus funds couldn’t be used at Belleayre. Now Mt. Snow has some. Why?”
One reason given for Belleayre not getting funding was because many felt the project was not “shovel ready.”
Kelly argued that Belleayre’s Unit Management Plan, a blueprint for the ski center’s expansion that the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has been preparing for several years, is all but completed. With the plans drawn, Kelly said, hiring workers and getting the job underway could begin rapidly.
Yancey Roy, a spokesman for the DEC, disagreed with Kelly’s understanding of the progress on the management plan.
“He is not correct. It is still months away from completion,” Roy said in February last year.
So what about now?
Roy could not be reached for comment. Enck, who was in the governor’s office and was a key player in the plans for Belleayre, is no longer working there.