LAKE PLACID - The state Olympic Regional Development Authority is trying to play catch-up after a cut of more than $2 million in state funding for 2010-11.
After revising its budget to reflect the loss in September and introducing cuts in operations, ORDA's revenues are up, according to ORDA President and CEO Ted Blazer.
He reported an "excellent" summer season with a full slate of winter events ahead.
Despite the cold, work continues on the conference center in Lake Placid, as seen Thursday afternoon when a large crane was parked out front on Main Street. The building is scheduled to be completed in March.
(Photo for the Enterprise — Eric Voorhis)
"We're doing what we're supposed to be doing as we head into the winter months," Blazer said. "It's not easy, but we're making up that difference."
Through Oct. 31, ORDA had seen an operating loss of $6.826 million versus an operating loss of $8.228 million through October 2009, an improvement of $1.4 million, according to accountant Jim Amell, who presented the board with a financial report Tuesday.
Payroll is down $547,000, roughly 7 percent from last year, and non-personal service expenses are $457,000 lower than last year, or 9.9 percent. The decrease is due to a reduction in overtime, running operations with fewer people and laying off seasonal staff earlier than in the past.
"The cuts you've made are really starting to appear financially," Amell said.
Non-operating income and expense is $4.12 million through October 2011, a decrease of $2.3 million from last year, which can be attributed to the decrease in state spending on ORDA.
"With these grim state cuts, you're really on target to do what you need to do," Amell said. "The management continues to do an excellent job controlling costs."
Board member Serge Lussi said it was "phenomenal" what the authority has been able to accomplish under the conditions.
The board of directors voted unanimously to approve a revised 2010-11 budget. Board Chairman Joe Martens said only minimal changes were made.
"I mostly just cleaned up some of the language," he said. "For the most part, this is the same exact budget that was approved at the last board meeting (Sept. 30)."
When things become more clear later in the fiscal year, the budget will likely come back to the table, Martens said.
"We don't know how the winter is going to end," he said. "And I'm not sure if the state appropriation is going to hold."
Board members agreed that the best course of action was to discuss budget revisions in the future, and to anticipate more state cuts.
"Obviously, we're trying to do more with less," Blazer said.
In cutting its operating costs, ORDA is deferring some of its maintenance and equipment needs, which concerned some board members.
"We can't not take care of these things as we move forward," said board member Ed Weibrecht. "Eventually, we're going to have mandatory maintenance."
Board member Bob Flacke said the biggest issue is "safety, safety, safety."
"Can we perform our mission in a safe manner with all of these cuts?" he asked.
Board members are looking into new, energy-saving snowmaking equipment for Whiteface and Gore Mountain ski centers. Although no decisions have been made, board members recently attended a meeting with a major snowmaking manufacturer in the Northeast.
The new systems are fully automated and use much less water and energy than systems in place now, Martens said.
"The idea is that the savings will pay for the system over time," he said. "But there are a lot of different options here that we need to review."
Gore General Manager Mike Pratt, who attended the board meeting, said each mountain spends roughly $1.5 million each year just to make snow, and that the amount of savings with more efficient equipment could be tremendous.
Martens said more information would be provided to the board at its next meeting in April.
Ski bowl moves ahead
Construction has been completed on the Gore Mountain Interconnect.
Although it hasn't been fully opened yet, the ORDA-run ski center is now linked to the North Creek Ski Bowl through a series of trails and a new lift.
According to Pratt, the mountain is waiting for a final certification to open the new section of the mountain.
"It will be inspected next Thursday (Dec. 23)," he said. "And then we're hoping to open it up the following weekend."
Pratt said the new trails have generated a buzz in the skiing community.
"I think people are really excited about this."
Conference center concerns
With the Lake Placid Conference Center scheduled for completion in March, and with events planned as early as May, some board members shared concerns about being ready for guests.
The conference center is home to advanced audio and high-definition video distribution systems, along with other new technologies.
"This is a very sophisticated building," Ed Weibrecht said. "I'm wondering if we have enough experience in the building to operate all of these systems."
ORDA's director of planning and construction, Bob Hammond, said the building's staff has received training and that backup support from manufacturers would be available.
"We've taken steps to help mitigate any problems," Hammond said. "We're confident in the systems and the training of our staff."
Lussi agreed it is important to "dazzle" the first group to visit the convention center.
"If you go to a restaurant and have bad food, are you going to go back?" he said. "We really want people talking about this place."