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REPORTING · 4th October 2011
Walter McFarlane
Shames Mountain returned to Kitimat on Monday, October 3rd. Curtis Billey and Linda Parker got up to address Council. They thanked Council for inviting them to give an update.

Billey explained the price from the current owners had been reduced and they reduced the capital expenditures. They went through a timeline as it sits. He explained they have raised $385,000 for the mountain. They have to pay $200,000 to Shames Mountain Ski Corp. They also have to do some maintenance and purchase equipment. This leads to a shortfall of $280,000.

Billey explained they have come a long way with the City of Terrace, the Regional District and they have grant applications out. They have made requests of Rio Tinto Alcan, Prince Rupert and other local contractors.

“We sincerely believe the Municipalities need to send the message. They need to lead this to get money from the businesses,” said Billey. “We’ve heard this from Rio Tinto Themselves. It would help them greatly to contribute money if we could say that we’ve got money from many members, many businesses and our municipalities on board to help fund the ski hill which is a regional facility and important to the whole region.”

Billey argued Rio Tinto uses the mountain as a hiring tool. They hoped to negotiate the price lower. Terrace has promised them $15,000 a year so long as the group comes back and free rent until 2012. He hoped to get Kitimat to match Terrace.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff clarified it was $15,000 Terrace has committed. Billey replied Terrace has committed $30,000 ($15,000 this year and $15,000 in 2012) and then look at it on a means basis.

Councillor Gerd Gottschling noticed the shortfall and pointed out historically, Shames Mountain always had a short fall. He wanted to know what made them think they could run the Mountain better.

“I guess what we are looking for from the municipalities is the ability to subsidize the shortfall for a period of 5 years. To answer your question about can we do it better, no I don’t think we can do anything wildly better and wildly different. While we view it as a regional and community facility which needs a subsidy just like every other facility or arena or swimming pool or golf course or marina or all the rest of it,” said Billey.

He added there are some things they could do better. As a non profit organization, they could receive better rates on their services. The businessmen who were running it did not get help from anywhere and the Co-op are receiving preferred rates. He added Rio Tinto is in the Power and Water business and they have offered assistance generating power up there.

Gottschling asked them to consider the economy and no business can survive in a constant short fall.

Councillor Randy Halyk clarified the money which has been listed as money is merely promised to them. Halyk also pointed out the money they were getting from the municipalities was the same as the shortfall. Halyk admitted he could see a problem with this.

“One of the problems that I foresee is that people will be leaving our community and going through Terrace to the Ski Hill and there is no economic spin for us at all. Our restaurants won’t get any benefit from it, we don’t have any retail spaces in town to sell skis or equipment or what not. We have some that sell clothing but I’m just concerned that we’re spending our tax dollars out of the community to support something that is really not ours,” said Halyk.

He suggested starting a ski hill in Kitimat, then apologized because he felt it was a concept they did not wish to hear. Halyk said he would sooner see tax dollars spent in Kitimat rather then outside the community.

Parker explained the ski hill draws people to the region and to companies. While Kitimat might not sell more things, they would draw more Doctors, Physical Therapists and Dentists to the community. Not just economic spin off.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if the RDKS grant ($100,000) was factored into their cash flow. Billey explained the $280,000 shortfall was really a $180,000 shortfall. Goffinet also clarified the money would not go to the investors or the current owners of the property.

Goffinet also inquired as to how much money they would get from corporations. Billey could not answer the question but Parker expressed they had many businesses and corporate donations with a dollar figure in mind who are waiting for one key piece to fall into place to tip them over the edge. She expressed Rio Tinto was waiting for Kitimat City Council to invest.

Gottschling asked if Prince Rupert had offered any money. The response; not yet. Councillor Bob Corless wanted to know what plan they had for next year if they did not get enough snow. Billey replied saying Christmas is critical. However, the hill has not always had a successful Christmas snow pack and they found a way to come out ok.

Monaghan thanked them for their presentation and wished them a lot of snow.

When the time came for a motion Councillor Halyk tried to make a negative motion; not to grant the money. However, because the motion was negative, it could not be made. Feldhoff made a motion to grant the Co-op $15,000 for 2011. Councillor Corrine Scott clarified it was a one time donation.

Feldhoff also clarified it was to cover their operations only, not the purchase, and agreed it did not commit a future Council from contributing.

Halyk spoke against the motion. “From feedback from the community, it seems the community is against spending tax dollars outside our community. Because of that, I have to stand with. I believe there is opportunity here for the ski hill to go on their own. $15,000 is not a lot of money compared to what they require to survive,” said Halyk.

He reminded them how they bailed out the golf course and feared getting roped into another bail out with the ski hill. “We have to be very careful where we spend our money and believe we have to spend it in the community, not outside of it,” said Halyk.

Feldhoff replied. “We should be less concerned with ‘where’ the ski hill is,” said Feldhoff. “What we have here is something at hand with a small contribution. All we should be concerned about is maintaining a high quality of life for our citizens. A number of our citizens value the opportunity to go alpine skiing. My Mountain Co-op has done a lot of work to get memberships and it looks like they have some donations waiting in the wings and all we need to show is a little bit of leadership to allow this to continue. I think it would be a shame to lose this skiing opportunity for being closed minded.

He pointed out if they were to build a ski hill in Kitimat, it would cost millions of dollars.

Goffinet said this was a donation for only one year. It could lead to some corporate donations and the only corporations in the Northwest were in Kitimat. He also favoured the Co-op ownership. “It is a Northwest facility,” said Goffinet.

He added he was impressed with the amount of money invested locally into summer recreation. He added he would be as generous to the Onion Lake Ski Trails as he is to the Co-Op.

Halyk took offence to Feldhoff’s referral to the people of Kitimat as being close minded. He said people of Kitimat have been vocal on the issue. He pointed to a letter in the Council Package from John Pacheco who, while a skier, would sooner see Kitimat’s tax money invested in the community.

Councillor Gerd Gottschling said there was a lot of work which has been done with good intentions. “The problem is, first of all, I wasn’t sure this venture would ever be in the black. Right now, we’re looking at $280,000. We’re not sure if the snow will be there, other issues may come up. With such a short margin, it is quite conceivable that they will be in the red again. We are already contributing though the Regional District, 40% of the hundred thousand. This community is already contributing $40,000 of taxpayers money. We have other issues in our community which we have truly had to say no to because there is no money,” said Gottschling.

He pointed out Prince Rupert had not contributed and Terrace had a similar issue. However, it is election time and they have a desire to help out. Gottschling expressed there were better places in Kitimat to spend their money.

Feldhoff got a chance to reply to Kitimat. He did not mean to point out the people of Kitimat were small minded, he suggested if the Council was unable to find $15,000 in the 28 million they raise for the community, they would be the ones who were small minded. He said he read all the letters, spoken to a number of people and there is support in the community. He saw more benefit to the cost.

Scott stated she understood where Gottschling and Halyk were coming from. “However, the whole region will benefit. Not just Terrace or wherever. What concerns me and why I would vote for this motion, if we can’t come up with $15,000 as a one time thing, it is not committing us to further years of funding, the group would stand to lose the corporate donation and I could not stand to see that happen,” said Scott.

Gottschling spoke again. He said it was inconceivable that industry would not invest the money in something which will bring the labourers and professionals into the community because a Council chose not to invest.

Corless, who has been speaking against the investment at Regional District, had a change of heart. He said since there were hard working volunteers involved, they should invest the $15,000, wish them good luck and the new Council could see if they could help out. He thought it should go up against other budget items and was going to table it until then. However, the sweet talk at the table touched his heart.

Halyk pointed out the corporate donations were not tied to what they do incorrectly stating Billey had told them My Mountain Co-op had already seen an investment from Rio Tinto Alcan. Having spoken to the Mayor Prince Rupert, Halyk added it did not look like they were going to invest either.

Feldhoff closed debate. He said the corporate investors are looking for a signal from the elected body. “I believe I am standing with the people of Kitimat,” said Feldhoff.

The question was called and carried. Kitimat will be contributing $15,000 to the Shames, ‘My Mountain Co-op’.