Black Mountain officials 'reeling' from Rumford budget defeat and annual town donation loss

RUMFORD — Tuesday's defeat at the polls of Rumford's proposed $8 million municipal budget sent Black Mountain of Maine ski area officials reeling.

They were anticipating getting at least a $51,000 donation from the town.

In Article 22 of the warrant, the ski area requested $51,700, which the Finance Committee recommended raising and appropriating. Selectmen recommended $51,000.

The money was to help carry the ski area through the summer, get it ready for winter and pay wages for three employees, Roger Arsenault, president of Black Mountain's Board of Directors, said Thursday afternoon.

The article was defeated 497-939.

Of the 497 yes votes, 200 wanted to donate $51,700, and 224 wanted to donate $51,000.

Due to a previous charter change, there is no recourse for initiated article requests that are defeated.

"This pretty much took the wind out of our sails," Arsenault said. "That money carries us through the summer to start our season."

He said Black Mountain officials will meet the first of next week with officials from the Maine Winter Sports Center to assess the situation and try to decide what to do.

The Maine Winter Sports Center, which is backed by grants from the Libra Foundation, bought Black Mountain ski area in 2003 and quickly expanded it.

Last fall, the center invested several thousand dollars into Black Mountain and installed a new snow-making system and high-efficiency snow guns. Lift tickets were reduced to $15, Mother Nature poured on the snow and skier visits shot way up.

"We had a tremendous year last year and we were keeping area lodging establishments, well I won't say full, but we made an impact, and the restaurants were busy," he said.

On June 8, Black Mountain emailed its newsletter to residents, telling them to please vote yes on Article 22. "Black Mountain needs your support on June 11th! Remember EVERY vote counts!" it said.

It touted the ski area's free season passes for Maine children in kindergarten through second grade, sponsored Free Ski Nights, and Black Mountain's new $15 lift tickets.

"We are working towards the sustainability of a rural community by making a skiing lifestyle affordable for families again," the letter said. "Black Mountain and the events we host bring a large number of people to Rumford; the River Valley Growth Council has even documented the value of Black Mountain to the area as an economic engine.

"As a family-friendly and family-affordable ski area, we offer a great way for the entire family to stay healthy and active throughout the winter," the article continued. Finally, the Black Mountain Initiated Article No. 22 represents only $5 on the average household taxes."

Arsenault said Black Mountain was riding this wave of euphoria from having one of their best seasons until Tuesday's ballot results were released Wednesday.

"This affects our employees and whether they are going to be laid off," he said.

With functions already scheduled at the ski area this summer and fall, they are trying to figure out how to meet those obligations.

"If we lose our employees, it's  a big step backward," Arsenault said. "It hurts people. That's the sad part."

Volunteer Craig Zurhorst, Black Mountain's former marketing director, echoed Arsenault's sentiment about the funding defeat.

"It hurt a lot," Zurhorst said.

"Next week, hopefully, we'll have a direction to go in," Arsenault said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

THOMAS FALLON 's picture

Less...

I would have given less to Black Mountain. I voted no only because the same amount was given to BM year after year with no concern for tax increases as the town and state face obvious problems. The selectmen and the finance committee should have understood that and protected BM, recommending a lesser amount.

Eric  LeBlanc's picture

Casino anyone?

Black Mountain would make a great combination ski resort/casino with a healthy year round revenue. Get it done or forever struggle financially.

 's picture

Black Mountain Ski Area

Is supposed to be an independent, for profit, business. If it can't sustain itself then it needs to rethink it's business model.
use some of the money that it made from its "excellent" year to clear the x-country trails for mountain bike use like Sunday River did, and sell some of the mountain side for ski-out condos. Think bigger and quit begging.

 's picture

The Rumford Budget was irresponsible.

Its defeat necessary. Now a lot of changes will take place hopefully for the better.

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