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LADC OKs $200,000 for lodge

| August 27, 2004 12:00 AM

By Brent Shrum, Western News Reporter

The Libby Area Development Co. on Wednesday voted to forgive an existing $110,829 debt and to grant another $200,000 to Kootenai Winter Sports to finance the construction of a ski lodge at Turner Mountain.

The ski hill group had initially asked for a $417,000 grant, which included $90,000 to purchase groomers and $24,000 for rental equipment along with $302,000 for the lodge. The proposal was revamped following a policy decision by the LADC to restrict grants and focus on loans because the city¹s economic development fund has been depleted to around $1.3 million.

It started as an $8 million fund from a federal grant in September 2000.

After a meeting last week with the full LADC board, representatives of the ski group met with LADC board members Mike Munro and Pat Pezzelle to develop a new proposal. The groomers and rental equipment were removed from the package with follow-up discussions focusing on the potential to turn the grant request into a loan combined with the elimination of the existing debt.

The money owed by Kootenai Winter Sports represents the remains of a $128,000 loan taken out in 2001. At that time, the LADC and city council approved a $92,000 grant for the group combined with the purchase of a $128,000 certificate of deposit to secure a loan. The grant and loan funded improvements including the replacement of a T-bar lift with a chair lift.

A review of Turner¹s finances indicated that the group is not likely to be able to repay any more debt than it has already taken on, Munro told the LADC board during an informal meeting Wednesday morning. He proposed forgiving the debt combined with a $200,000 grant instead of a loan.

Kootenai Winter Sports is planning to hold an annual ³LADC Day² fundraiser at the ski hill with all proceeds to go to the economic development fund, said group representative Bruce Zwang. He estimated profits of $2,000 to $5,000 for the event.

³I guess you could call it a grant with the ability to pay back some,² Munro said.

The LADC voted to approve the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday evening. The board¹s recommendation will be passed along to the Libby City Council for a final decision.

Plans are to construct the 40-by-50-foot, two-level lodge this fall. The lodge will feature indoor plumbing, a commercial kitchen and seating for nearly 100 people and is expected to increase Turner Mountain¹s marketability to skiers from outside the local area.