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Pisgah lift back on track

Village board approves agreement for ski center work

May 10, 2011
By CHRIS KNIGHT - Senior Staff Writer ( , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

SARANAC LAKE - The Mount Pisgah Ski Center T-bar lift project is back on track after the village Board of Trustees voted Monday night to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Friends of Mount Pisgah.

The terms of the deal require the village to front a maximum of $140,000 for additional, unbudgeted work on the new lift, which is scheduled to be installed this summer and be ready for the next ski season. The agreement requires FOMP to raise the necessary funds to repay what the village described as a "temporary loan that the village makes to itself."

Monday night's decision came two weeks after the board rejected a resolution to loan $138,000 to FOMP, part of which would cover $90,000 in unbudgeted electrical costs for the new lift. Trustees were concerned because there was no limit to the total amount of the loan, which the resolution said "could be well in excess" of $138,000.

"One of our biggest concerns was the open-ended nature of the dollar figure," Trustee John McEneany said Monday night. "This bill caps that to the amount that was asked for previously based on the increase in the electrical. It addresses those questions to that point."

But Trustee Jeff Branch noted there's no reference to a $140,000 cap in the resolution approving the MOU, only in a cover letter. The board later agreed, at Branch's request, to amend the resolution and make the amount of the temporary loan "not to exceed $140,000."

The additional costs were incurred after village officials learned that their plan to keep Mount Pisgah's existing utility poles, where the lights for night skiing are located, next to the new lift towers would violate the state building code, which prohibits utility lines from being within the fall line of a ski lift tower.

The current plan is to bury the electric lines and put the lights on top of the new lift towers, though those costs weren't budgeted when the village applied for, and was later awarded, a $600,000 state grant for the lift and a series of new trails at the mountain.

After signing off on the agreement with FOMP, the board discussed and ultimately approved donating the T-bars from the old lift to FOMP for use in its fundraising campaign.

"My only concern with this is that if we give away the Ts now, and God forbid the lift doesn't make it in this year, then we have a lift with no Ts," Branch said. "I want to make sure that doesn't happen."

But Mount Pisgah Manager Charlie Martin said the old lift has to be decommissioned this year.

"The existing power lines are in violation of state code, so the (new) lift's gotta go in this year," he said.

FOMP President Wayne Feinberg said he was pleased the village approved the MOU and agreed to donate the T-bars. He said the group is "gearing up" its fundraising so it can pay the village back, which it's required to do in three installments over the next year-and-a-half.

The $140,000 was an estimate. How much money the group will actually have to raise depends on the cost estimates for the electrical work and the pouring of concrete pads for the lift towers, Feinberg said.

"If those quotes come in favorably, we won't have to raise as much and the project will be more viable, quicker," Feinberg said.

There was no additional discussion at Monday night's board meeting about whether the village should lease Mount Pisgah, which continues to operate in the red each year, to FOMP or some other entity. That subject came up two weeks ago.

"The question of whether the village of Saranac Lake should run Mount Pisgah or Friends of Mount Pisgah should be offered an opportunity to run it is obviously a further discussion to be had," McEneany said.



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