THE PROVINCIAL government is working on a deal to pave the way for a local non-profit group to buy Shames Mountain.
Key to the sale by the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation to My Mountain Co-op is dealing with $560,745 in debt owed by the corporation, to the provincial government.
Provincial forests, lands and natural resource operations minister Steve Thomson was in Terrace last week meeting with those close to the deal, a visit that included a closed-door session with Terrace city council Aug. 19.
Speaking afterward, Thomson said the province was working on what he called a series of options.
The majority of the debt owed, $419,994, stems from a tourism development loan taken out years ago but never fully repaid.
The remaining $147,751 represents royalty payments – in return for using Shames Mountain under a lease arrangement, the ski corporation pays the province 2 per cent of its chairlift revenues each year.
Thomson said forgiveness of the entire debt is out of the question but that any number of other proposals are under consideration.
“No decision has been made,” said Thomson of negotiations underway and he declined to provide details.
A business plan prepared by the My Mountain Co-op does suggest one option and that is for the My Mountain Co-op to assume responsibility for some of the debt owed by the ski corporation.
This would also lower the current purchase price of $1.2 million because the Shames Mountain Ski Corporation has said it will reduce its asking price by the amount that its debt is reduced.
Jon Hopper from My Mountain Co-op said the complication is how to transfer any amount of the debt owed by the Shames ski corporation to the co-op.
“It may be that we have to take on the debt and then work to get it forgiven,” he said last week.
In the meantime, Hopper said the co-op will keep working to raise money.
“We’re continuing to forge ahead,” he said.
My Mountain Co-op launched a $2 million campaign early this year to raise the purchase price and to have money to make repairs and do maintenance at the facility but has so far raised just under $400,000 in personal and corporate memberships and donations.
Co-op officials say a sales deal with the ski corporation is in place but that it hinges on reaching an agreement with the province for a long- term or deferred payment plan.
Co-op officials also say a deal needs to be closed very soon to give it enough time to keep raising money, to hire employees and to make repairs and conduct other maintenance if the mountain is to open this ski season.
The ski corporation has already indicated it won’t be operating the ski facility this year.
“We recognize there is some time sensitivity for the co-op,” said Thomson of the province’s position.
“We recognize the importance of the mountain to the area,” he added.
Terrace city council has already said it is lobbying the provincial government to forgive the ski corporation debt.
The city did, however, turn down a request to give the co-op $200,000 but did consider a new proposition at its Aug. 22 council meeting to give the co-op $91,000.
The city has already extended by five months an original agreement to give the co-op free office space at the Kwinitsa building. And it did buy a $599 business membership in the co-op.