Mayor responds to social media discussion about ski hills and golf course ratings

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Mayor Marchisella clarifies ownership, management and reasons for assessments of Mont Dufour Ski Hill, Stone Ridge Golf Course

After an article was published in Elliot Lake Today last weekend, Mayor Dan Marchisella posted a comment on several social media sites where the story had been shared.

It begins by saying, “Some of the comments in this article and the last one are inaccurate and misleading. Neither the committee nor the council recommended selling any of these assets (golf course – ski resort) at our last meeting of the economic development committee, but asked that the council declare a surplus and hire a professional to do a proper valuation which would also include the operations. »

Responding to an inquiry from ElliotLakeToday, the mayor clarified his comments, saying the article itself was not inaccurate but reactions to it appeared to be based on inaccurate assumptions.

Here is his full statement in which he explains what he was referring to.

I believe that anyone concerned, before contacting the media or spreading inaccurate information on social media, should have taken the time to watch both the board meeting where the board deliberated on the no solicited purchase of the golf course which was declined by council and also the Ec -Standing Development Committee meeting where members received Mr. Antunes’ report and discussed next steps and objective. Neither the staff nor the board “targets” the golf course or the ski resort. The current recommendation to be submitted to the Board by March 14, 2022 is as follows:

  1. that the council declare the golf course surplus, obtain a professional valuation of the land and assets and
  2. refuses all current offers for the golf course.

Staff also said the aim is to get actual numbers and values ​​for the course and assets, not only for council and community awareness, but also for proper insurance numbers. It’s not something that can be done locally because there are no comparables. The board has made it clear that it currently has no interest in selling this asset, but would still like to get an accurate picture of its value.

Currently, the city has a management contract for golf course operations with Retirement Living, whose board and council have clear oversight. Retirement Living does a great job management-wise, but the course has cost taxpayers an average of about $150,000 per year (insurance, taxes, capital expenses) even with the past few years of positive earnings.

It was noted that privately owned golf courses across the country have the ability to invest more capital in upgrades, beautification and marketing than municipally owned courses which can attract more tourists and members.

This is due to tighter council budgets which cover a wide variety of community needs… Again, no, there are currently no plans to sell our council at this time to my knowledge.

Comments that the mayor and council have no right to sell these assets are completely untrue. As a board member, you have a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers that requires comprehensive financial oversight. As we always look to the best interests of our community when it comes to health, safety and well-being, this includes physical activities, recreation, arts, culture and facilities.

If the council has the ability to minimize the financial burden on its ratepayers while maintaining the same supply, it is within our purview to consider alternatives such as the private sector, especially if the supply would have increased value to the community.

The negative comments and misinformation that were spread about the offer to purchase the golf course left my phone and email off all weekend along with those of other advisors. Sadly, the concerns stemmed from rumors that the course would no longer be, perhaps turned into accommodation or closed for other purposes, which it has not.

After deliberating advice on the offer, I had several of the same people calling and messaging who did not realize the reality of what was actually on offer or the annual cost to them.

That being said, I fully support my board’s decision on this and would personally like to know the actual value as I myself have heard rumors that it is between $1-9 million. This is a huge gap that needs to be filled.

At the forefront of the ski resort, 90% is on city-owned land. Although the majority of the assets were purchased through fundraising and donations many, many years ago, the financial data clearly indicates that there are approximately $680,000 in assets and (of that amount) $387,000, about 60% owned by the city.

As the majority of the assets are past their amortization deadlines and the city covers insurance up to $25,000 per year, it is in the ratepayers best interest that we know the true value of the land and assets, including the pavilion which will require updates to meet accessibility standards and possibly a building condition assessment report for future planning.

Again, if the city wants to sell the property we legally can, that’s not the call of any individual (including myself or the hill manager) but that’s not the case , no one mentioned a sale in a meeting. What becomes more concerning, however, is the complete lack of municipal oversight in this area, as there has been no council-backed management plan, contract or agreement with the ski resort. since 2016.

The municipality has covered major capital expenditures, minor repairs, insurance and the audit reserve, which average $107,000 per year if drawn over a five-year period from taxpayers to an outside body. Yes, we respect the volunteers who get involved and also appreciate and want to keep the ski resort as a source of winter recreation, but I also remember a time when events were held all year round on the resort, which generated additional income and entertainment.

From my knowledge of events over the past few years, we have had uncontrolled management, not city staff, picking and choosing who they allow to rent the property and what events they personally deem fit to hold on the property, rather than the staff or the board. To my knowledge, there is no succession plan that would allow anyone to feel comfortable about the future management or operation of the lifts when we see planned retirements.

These issues are very real and need to be resolved in the near future so that we can see the continuation of the ski resort for generations to come. This is something that myself, the board and staff are committed to, but again it requires dialogue and a proper management contract.

Neither the golf course nor the ski resort can be compared to city owned and operated facilities like the pool, Collins Hall or Centennial Arena, these are fully overseen by the council and operated by staff including programming and long-term asset management plans. That being said, many communities have a YMCA, which eases the financial burden on host municipalities.

The city provides annual grants to non-profit organizations like the Food Bank, Maplegate, and Ren’s Active Living Center as part of community welfare, but away from the costs or losses of the ski resort or the golf course, so they shouldn’t be compared like apples to apples. The city has in the past and will again in the future provide affordable rental space for arts and social groups in city-owned facilities like the Civic Center had housed, not for free, but at an affordable price. .

What should have happened in this case is that if anyone had a concern, don’t believe the social media rumor, watch the meeting, contact the staff or contact a board member to get the real answers. We don’t mind responding to members of our community, but it’s pretty hard to deal with angry ratepayers who got their misinformation from the gossip page. We are there for all residents and do not work on behalf of just a few.

Cheers,
Mayor Dan Marchisella

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