SPECULATOR - Oak Mountain Ski Center may be getting new owners.
The Hamilton County Industrial Development Agency, which owns the ski center, accepted an offer from local business owners Matt and Laura O'Brien. Pending the state's decision to allow the sale, the O'Briens could be the new owners Aug. 3.
The O'Briens, who managed the mountain during the 2010-11 season, offered $1 at closing and $50,000 at the third anniversary of the sale.
A chair lift is shown at Oak Mountain Ski Area in Speculator earlier this year.
Leader-Herald file photo
The IDA says the O'Briens are best suited to run the mountain.
"One of the ideas all along is that it would continue to be a ski center all around," said IDA Chairman Brian Towers. "There were three companies who expressed interest, and we felt that the best interest lied with the O'Brien family."
The O'Briens own the general store Iggy's at Moffit Beach.
Local government officials were pleased with their operation of Oak during the O'Briens' one-season tenure.
The village of Speculator has been overseeing the ski center for several years.
Neil McGovern, Lake Pleasant supervisor and former Speculator mayor, said he hired Matt and Laura O'Brien as one of his last moves as mayor, and he was satisfied with that decision.
"They really helped reinvigorate the place," McGovern said. "They got volunteers really enthused. They have a natural enthusiasm for skiing. They have a passion for the area."
In addition to operating Oak Mountain as a ski resort, the O'Briens plan to offer activities in the fall and summer.
"That will be something they'll look to expand on, more festivals in both the summer and fall," McGovern said. "It's a natural theater and natural ampitheater. So it's a wonderful place for a festival of music. I think it's going to be very important for the economic upward movement here in Speculator and Lake Pleasant."
Speculator Mayor Letty Rudes said Oak is a popular ski area for families and a good source of employment in the winter.
She said she hopes to see a successful year-round operation.
Towers expects the ski center to provide 40 to 50 seasonal jobs, which he believes will be good for other local businesses.
Rudes said she is concerned about a possible lack of snow in the winter.
"There's no question it has been an added bonus for the community," she said. "The only problem is we're so dependent on the weather. We can only pray that we have more snow up here next year.
"The five years that the village ran it, it had a lot of participation. The community was very supportive of the village and its endeavor, but there are other facets that the village has to serve to the community. I'm assuming [the O'Briens are] going to continue in the same vain," Rudes said.
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.
The IDA also received offers from Grain Communications Group, based in Sarasota, Fla., and Independent Towers Holdings, based in Latham.
Grain offered to buy just a communications tower on the property for $602,000.
Independent Towers Holdings offered $651,000 - $601,000 to the IDA and $50,000 to an escrow account, for the ski area. The company also proposed to lease Oak to a mountain manager.
The O'Briens chose to leave the communications tower and two of the three lots at the site out of their purchase proposal.