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Agency fields questions on plan to buy Whitetail

April 23, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Officials with a Mercersburg agency that is buying the Whitetail Ski Resort fielded questions Thursday from about 80 people during a public meeting on the proposed $42 million deal.

Residents didn't learn that the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority had bought the 550-acre resort until after the deal was approved on April 6. Authority members assured residents again Thursday that no local tax money is at risk in the venture but that assurance didn't appease all who were present.

Only investors who buy the bonds that will pay for the resort over the next 30 years stand to lose if it goes under, said the Rev. Michael Brendle, authority president. He said $36.8 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds go on the market Monday. Another $4.8 million in bonds will be held by the seller until the first bonds have been paid, he said.

The authority will keep any leftover revenues after all obligations are paid each year, Brendle said. That could mean nearly $300,000 a year over the next five years which could be spent on education or other public uses. The amount could go higher after that as more bills are paid off and income increases after a golf course, which is under construction, opens in late 2000.

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The authority has final say on how that money would be spent, Brendle said.

While mentioned earlier the idea of the authority floating a separate bond issue to build a conference center at Whitetail was discussed in greater detail Thursday.

Brendle said the authority hired marketing consultants who said after their study, that such a facility could draw people from the metropolitan area 90 miles away to the center for meetings.

Brendle also envisions a cultural center for the community built at Whitetail. "It could be like a mini-Wolf Trap," he said.

Brendle and the other authority members present were asked by one resident why each voted to buy Whitetail.

Brendle said he saw an opportunity to enhance the community's financial structure, ensure that jobs stay here and to see that property taxes paid by Whitetail are not lost. The authority, while tax-exempt, will pay about $100,000 a year to the Tuscarora School District, an amount equal to what a private owner of Whitetail would have to pay.

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