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Second potential buyer backs out of Whitetail resort deal

December 01, 1998|By DON AINES

SUNBURY, Pa. - The Northumberland County Board of Commissioners on Monday voted to kill plans to purchase the Whitetail Ski Resort by that county's general authority.

At a special meeting, the three-member board voted unanimously to rescind resolutions approved Nov. 17 that would have allowed the Northumberland County General Authority to proceed on the purchase of Whitetail, near Mercersburg, Pa., in Franklin County, according to Northumberland County spokesman Chad Hershberger.

It was the second time in recent months that a potential sale of the resort to a county general authority has fallen through. A deal with the Dauphin County General Authority died earlier this year when a competing ski resort operator filed a lawsuit in Dauphin County Court.

A statement by the Northumberland commissioners said "it has become increasingly apparent to this board of the lack of public support for the project."

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The board announced Friday it would hold the special meeting to rescind the resolutions.

"This action will prevent the Northumberland County General Authority from closing on the bond issues and related financing previously scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 1," the board's statement said.

Hershberger said the resolution dealing specifically with Whitetail would have allowed the general authority to proceed with a bond issue not to exceed $33 million to finance the purchase. Two other resolutions on other projects were also rescinded, he said.

"That's gone, too," Hershberger said of any plans for the authority to buy a golf course and conference center being developed near the ski resort. The golf course, scheduled to open in 2000, was purchased was from Whitetail by the Dauphin County General Authority earlier this year.

"The golf course was going to be a separate bond issue they were going to consider in the spring," Hershberger said of the authority's plan to buy it from Dauphin's authority for up to $20 million.

The board's statement said acquiring Whitetail and some state-leased office buildings in the Harrisburg area "would have offered a means ... to achieve our economic goals expediently at no risk to the taxpayers."

"Unfortunately, because of the sensitivity of the negotiations and the necessity to finalize the agreements quickly we were unable to propose the plans to the public in order to gauge their opinions about the acquisition of the recreation facility," the statement said.

Had either authority acquisition gone through, Whitetail Ski Company would have managed the ski resort and golf course.

Last Wednesday Whitetail Chairman Richard Perl said the resort could be sold to the authority, to private investors, or continue to be owned by Whitetail Resort Limited Partnership.

Whitetail spokeswoman Rachel Nichols said the resort is hiring seasonal workers and has snow-making machinery ready for when temperatures dip below freezing. The resort hires approximately 800 full- and part-time workers each winter.

The resort, which opened in 1991, has faced tough sledding the past two winters because of limited snow and higher than normal temperatures.

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