THE GROUP wanting to buy the Shames Mountain ski hall won’t be getting any financial help from the city.
A motion to provide the My Mountain Co-op with $200,000 at the city council meeting last night failed in a 4-3 vote.
The co-op has been trying to raise $2 million to buy the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation and improve its facilities and has gathered $400,000 so far in individual and business memberships and contributions.
Terrace becomes the second local government to turn down a co-op request for $200,000 – Prince Rupert was the first while Kitimat and the Kitimat-Stikine regional district have yet to make a decision.
Debate leading to the motion centered on whether the city would simply provide the money from its surplus or borrow all or some of it and then provide it to the co-op.
The motion to pledge $200,000 – leaving it up to city staffers to figure out where it should come from – was moved by councillor Bruce Martindale.
He called the ski hill an asset to the community and region, noting that towns he passed through on a recent holiday also had ski hills.
“This is a leadership issue,” said Martindale in adding that $200,000 was a fairly small amount of money which would have been paid out over five years.
He opposed a suggestion by councillor Brian Downie that the matter be put to a referendum at the same time of municipal elections this fall.
“I know how it works. [After a referendum on money for the ski hill], we will have to go [to referendum] again and again and again. This is a decision we can make as council,” said Martindale.
Councillor Lynne Christiansen, who seconded the pledge motion so it could then be voted upon, opposed any suggestion of taking out a loan for the co-op.
She noted that council had earlier that evening agreed to spend $284,000 to demolish the former Terrace Co-op building, leaving it in a position that it would have to borrow if it wanted to help out the My Mountain Co-op plan.
“It’s a really tough one because I see us spending $200,000 if others put money in. I see it’s real important but we just spent $284,000 to tear down the Co-op. I can’t entertain the idea of a loan for this,” she said.
Councillor Bruce Bidgood said he supported providing the money because having a ski hill in the area was a quality of life issue.
Councillors Martindale, Downie and Bruce Bidgood voted in favour while Councillors Carol Leclerc, Brad Pollard and Christiansen voted against. Also voting against was Mayor Dave Pernarowski.
The motion to pledge money came after council first debated and then withdrew a first recommendation to consider a variety of ways to provide the $200,000 whether by a straight grant, borrowing the money or a combination.
Pollard said he could simply not support providing money to the co-op noting that in the end, any combination of $200,000 would work out to be taxpayers’ money.
Leclerc said any decision should not be based on emotion.
Mayor Dave Pernarowski explored the idea of providing the money through a combination of city surplus and borrowing.
The city received an unexpected $375,000 provincial grant this spring meant for the Davis Ave. road project.
But the city had already put its own money into the project, essentially freeing up the $375,000.
Pernarowksi had city finance director Ron Bowles confirm that the city had up to $100,000 of the provincial grant left after agreeing earlier in the evening to demolish the Terrace Co-op building.
The mayor also said he’s not seen a crowd of people “marching down the street to save this hill. I’m not getting that, particularly at the $200,000 level.”
There’s no indication of when Kitimat council might made its decision, but the My Mountain Co-op request to the regional district is to be considered Aug. 19.
Owners of the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation have been trying to sell for years, saying they’ve been putting their own money into the venture.
My Mountain Co-op and the ski corporation have been discussing an agreement whereby the co-op could operate the mountain this coming winter.
(This is an amended version, correcting an earlier error of fact. Mayor Dave Pernarowski did vote against the motion to pledge $200,000. An earlier version indicated he did not vote at all.)