GILFORD, NH — Belknap County-owned Gunstock ski area is in
for some changes as its longtime general manager and its marketing
director leave. And legislation is proposed to give legislative leaders
more control over the makeup of its governing board and the ski area’s
The writer kicks off this article with a pretty clear bias
against legislators. The FACT is the legislators and the commission
worked together to address deficiencies in the law that unduly
restricted Gunstock from more efficient operation.
News of the change at the helm in the middle of the ski
season came a day before legislation was heard on a bill to give the
county legislative delegation more control over who operates Gunstock
and where the money goes.
As to management of the ski area, it is functionally the end of the year and time to begin planning for future operations. As to ‘the money‘, this is more than a small quibble for control of a couple of bucks. The ski area has been rescued by the county taxpayers twice in recent decades. The last was a $6,000,000 bailout in 2000. If you can be bothered to do the math, there is hardly a return on investment, if you chose to look at in such terms.
The current law states that no more than one person from
the same municipality can serve on the board but the bill looks to drop
that requirement and it would add term limits.
The current law states that no more than one two persons from the same municipality can serve on the board.
The Gunstock Area Commission has a regularly scheduled meeting set for Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. at the ski area.
2018 has presented Gunstock with some tough sledding on the fiscal front. As we approach the November 6th election Gunstock and its financial woes has been used as political fodders. In recent letters 1, 2, to the Laconia Daily Sun a candidate (a current Gunstock commissioner) and a former Gunstock commissioner have written a jumble of incoherent misleading scribblings aimed at the integrity of Rep. Howard.
After a number of years being run by the Belknap County Commissioners, the Gunstock Area Commission was formed to resolve problems associated with the ski area being run by the County Commissioners. This ignores the actual problem which is a government body trying to run a competitive business.
One of the problems of a government run business is moral hazard. The taxpayers are on the hook for any failures but management reaps rewards if things run reasonably well. In the ski industry 2-3 years of bad weather can be expected and plans for such need to be in place. The late 1990’s put Gunstock in a position which required a hard choice; shut it down, or go to the taxpayers to keep it running.
On May 11, 2000 the County Delegation handed the bill to the county taxpayers:
Contrary to Rep. Howard’s critics the county taxpayers are on the edge of having to pick up another $6 million in bonds which Gunstock is having difficulty servicing. The Gunstock Commission has failed over the past 17 years to build enough reserves to get through one summer without a Revenue Anticipation Note. Let’s not forget the downgrade of the county’s bond rating earlier in 2018 whereas Moody’s cited Gunstock as a risk factor in that decision.
This should not be taken as an assault on any of the current or past commissioners. The problem is that government is not capable of running a business and shouldn’t even ever attempt to do so. It’s time to find a way to turn over the keys to a qualified operator.