SPECULATOR - Oak Mountain Ski Area is up for sale again, this time with "no strings attached."
Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern said Thursday when the recreational area was offered for sale in March 2011, it didn't draw any serious bids, possibly because of stipulations put on any interested buyer to continue community recreational use. While he said there would be no strings attached to the requests for proposals due March 22, he added that extra consideration would be given to any RFP that included a community recreational involvement aspect.
"The mountain has so much potential for year-round use," McGovern said. "Any proposal should include plans for extending ziplines, mountain bike trails and using the area for outdoor concerts since it's a natural amphi-theater."
A chair lift is shown at Oak Mountain Ski Area in Speculator on Tuesday.
He said the summer usage for the ski area has great potential with abundant water, sewer and power availability. He also said local volunteers who have helped run the ski area the past four years would be there as support for any potential buyer.
Hamilton County Industrial Development Agency Director Bill Osborne said he also helps out with the day-to-day running of the ski area.
"I'm a volunteer myself," Osborne said. "I'm part of the ski patrol. A lot of folks from the community work to keep the ski area open."
Osborne said there was no minimum bid amount set for the area's purchase, but the IDA can reject proposals that don't include keeping the ski center in operation. He also felt strongly that any proposal must include plans to utilize the area in the off season.
"I'm convinced the ski center can't succeed unless the other seasons are utilized," he said. "As it stands now, except for minor efforts, it sits idle nine months of the year."
Osborne said a sale of the ski area is being vigorously pursued, with advertising placed in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal among other venues.
Osborne said by law the sealed bids in the RFPs should include fair market value offerings when they are opened March 22.
"There' no minimum bid, but we reserve the right to refuse any bid," Osborne said. "The village of Speculator has taken on the daunting task of operating the ski center the last four years. They've been able to operate it at a small loss or at a break-even point each year without any marketing funds."
Osborne said extra consideration would be paid to any RFP that included a business plan that appeared viable to keep the ski area open. The IDA has been owed $1.5 million since Speculator took over the ski center in 2008. But Osborne said the sale of the property doesn't hinge on getting that money back.
The ski center has 14 trails, a quad chair lift and three T-bars and facilities at the base for cafe and equipment rental shop. Other aspects included in the sale are a possible subdivision of 11 lots and communications tower at the top which generates $43,000 per year.
Former Speculator Mayor Munro Smith said any purchaser's proposal should take into account the real-estate sub-division possibilities as well as the communication tower's financial impact.
"The section at the top of the mountain with cell towers even includes transmission of North Country Public Radio," Smith said. "It's not just a ski area."
Richard Nilsen covers rural Fulton County and southern Hamilton County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org