Belknap County Delegation Pursuing Changes at Gunstock
The County Delegation and the Gunstock Commission have been at odds over payments, debt.
Tuesday, November 21, 2017, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
After a bumpy few years with turbulent negotiations between its commission and county delegation, Gunstock Mountain Resort may be seeing significant changes to its fiscal operations. The New Hampshire ski resort is owned and operated by Belknap County.
In the spring of 2017, the Gunstock Area Commission withheld its annual $175,000 payment to the county, claiming it was no longer contractually obligated to make the remittance. At the same time, the commission was requesting a $650,000 bridge loan from the county to fund off season expenses. The commission subsequently made the payment, in exchange for the county's approval of the loan.
Earlier this month, the Belknap County Delegation replaced Gunstock Area Commission Chairman Sean Sullivan with former State Representative Brian Gallagher (R-Sanbornton). According to the Laconia Daily Sun, Sullivan believed the priorities of the Commission were "Gunstockâ€™s customers, employees and taxpayers, in that order" while Gallagher believed "the true owners of Gunstock are the hard-working people of Belknap County."
The new chairman has stated that Gunstock's recent payments are significantly lower than what it was paying the county a decade ago, despite millions of dollars of subsequent investments.
Belknap County's most recent audit shows $5.161 million in long term debt on the Gunstock books as of April 30, 2015. An additional $2.6 million in debt was approved three months later to fund the construction of a mountain coaster at the resort, while a $950,000 bridge loan was needed to fund off season operations in 2016 at the county owned and operated ski resort.
According to the Laconia Daily Sun, Representative Norman Silber (R-Gilford) has claimed Gunstock's General Manager Greg Goddard is the "highest-paid public employee in Belknap County" with a $175,000 salary and that Gunstock's tax exempt status is costing the town of Gilford over a quarter of a million dollars in lost tax revenue per year.
State Representative Valerie Fraser (R-New Hampton) has introduced HB 1702, which would require the Gunstock Commission to submit to the county convention for approval a strategic plan, business plan, operating budget, and any capital expenses each fiscal year. The bill has been assigned to the House Municipal and County Government Committee.