The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Guest Column

July 6, 2013

State backing for Belleayre project isn't fair

(Continued)

We also can’t compete with Belleayre’s pay and benefits. It’s quite possible that the expansion at Belleayre may lure away our skilled employees.

The state has real advantages when it comes to infrastructure upgrades, too. Ten years ago, the DEC got approvals and several millions in funding to install a connection that linked the top of the mountain and the base lodges to the Pine Hill sewer plant. This is a huge advantage, and it would be impossible for Plattekill to permit and fund a comparable upgrade without help.

In the 2000s, Belleayre installed two new lifts, along with trail changes, significant improvements to the snowmaking infrastructure, a grooming fleet and a state-of-the-art maintenance shop. Have these projects realized payback or a positive return on investment? It’s hard to see how Belleayre’s level of skier visits and admitted losses justify these expenditures.

How can I grow my business and expand my ski area in this environment? My responsibility is to my employees, my family and the Delaware County businesses that depend on Plattekill for survival. I speak for them. Our employees are just as important to the local economy as Belleayre’s.

What can be done to allow both ski areas to move forward on a level playing field? Plattekill suggests:

• State-backed interest-free loans for the private resorts that compete with Belleayre.

• A commitment by the state to refrain from predatory lift-ticket pricing.

• True joint marketing between the ski areas to increase skier visits to the Catskills.

• Promotion of a regulatory environment that encourages equivalent terrain and infrastructure/sewer expansion at the private resorts.

It’s hard for me to accept the existing proposal for New York to pay $5 million for 78 acres at Highmount that the developer paid $250,000 for back in 2000 or 2001. It would be much more fair to Plattekill and other competitors if Crossroads Ventures was to maintain ownership and develop the land on their own. Why aren’t they willing to take that risk? I suspect it’s because they don’t see a return on the investment.

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