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Whitetail bonds not sold

June 15, 1999|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - A proposal to sell the White Tail Ski Resort and a golf course to the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority appears to be dead, according to authority officials. (cont. from front) Almost two months after they went on the market, $42 million in bonds to finance the purchase of ski resort and golf course remain unsold, according to officials.

"I think the sale is off. I don't think they are marketing them (bonds) anymore," said the Rev. Michael R. Brendle, chairman of the authority. "I would say it's over."

The tax-free revenue bonds went on sale April 20, but so far there have been no takers, said Borough Manager James E. Leventry. He also serves as manager of the authority, which announced in April its plans to purchase the ski area and golf course.

"We're still waiting to hear ... It's been a long time," Leventry said.

"We haven't been able to find a buyer that's interested in the ski portion," said Bob Bradbury, of the investment banking firm Dolphin and Bradbury in Philadelphia.

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"The last three years haven't been good to White Tail," Bradbury said.

The past three winters have been warmer than average, limiting the ability to make snow and the length of the ski season.

Bradbury said there was no specific deadline to sell the bonds. "I think that's up to the authority, but I think we're very close to that point because White Tail has to make decisions on other things," he said.

Bradbury said the resort may have to start looking for another buyer if the bonds are not soon sold. Officials of White Tail Resort Limited Partnership, which owns the ski area, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Brendle said an institution was willing to buy half or two-thirds of the bonds, but all had to be sold for the deal to go through.

The ski area, which opened in 1991, was appraised at $18.5 million in February. The facility cost about $30 million to build, Franklin County Area Development Corporation Executive Director L. Michael Ross said when the plan was announced April 7.

The golf course is under construction and owned by the Dauphin County General Authority. Bradbury said that project is moving ahead.

The Dauphin County General Authority announced plans to buy the ski resort last year, but opposition by the County Commissioners there and a lawsuit by a competing ski resort company ended the deal. The Northumberland County General Authority later said it was interested in buying the ski resort, but that deal also fell through.

Had the Mercersburg General Purpose Authority sale gone through, Brendle said it would have posed no risk to taxpayers of the borough. The bondholders would have assumed all of the risk and been repaid by revenues generated by the ski resort and golf course.

"Everything was contingent on the deal being done," he said.

The firm marketing the bonds will not be paid unless the bonds are sold.

If the bonds are sold, the authority would own both the 550-acre ski resort and the 287-acre golf course, which is supposed to open in 2001.

White Tail officials have said the resort employs as many as 800 people during the ski season.

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