North Country
1:09 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Sen. Gallus: Longtime Fan of Leasing Cannon Mountain Says He Opposes Senate Bill

 

For years the North Country’s Senator - John Gallus (R-Berlin) - has favored turning the Cannon Mountain ski area over to a private firm.  But Gallus says on Wednesday he’ll vote against a bill that would explore the idea.

Gallus says an amendment to Senate Bill 217 by its sponsor – Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro) – badly weakened it.

“I’m certainly not going to support it tomorrow,” Gallus  said.

Bradley announced the amendment at a hearing last month before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

He said the amended bill does not require a lease but “creates an opportunity” for state officials to ask for information from companies that might be interested in operating the ski area “at some point in time, in the future.”

That amended bill actually requires the state’s Department of Resources and Economic Development to prepare “an analysis of whether it is in the public interest to lease the ski operations of Cannon Mountain to a private vendor.”

Bradley said Cannon could not be leased without the approval of a “subsequent legislature.”

He said he changed the bill so information – including upcoming capital improvements - could be collected and discussed with “transparency for full public input as to whether it makes sense or not to go forward.”

“This is not a leasing bill,” Bradley said.

But critics say while the bill doesn’t require leasing, it would take too big a step in that direction.

Tuesday Gallus told NHPR leasing would make the resort more successful by providing the needed funds for maintenance and improvements as well as some income to the state.

Those who oppose leasing say Cannon has been operating competently and profitably and turning it over to a private company could have downsides that include more expensive ski passes for the state’s residents, a change to Cannon’s  “unique character” and an uncertain impact on Franconia which would have no meaningful say in decisions.

Leasing Cannon is not a new issue.  Some participants at the committee hearing complained it is an old and tired debate that wastes time and distracts employees from doing their jobs. One speaker described it as a “continual regurgitation.”