SARANAC LAKE - The village of Saranac Lake hasn't found anyone interested in taking over operation of Mount Pisgah Ski Center, so it may turn to a former manager to run the facility for the upcoming winter.
Village Manager John Sweeney said a resolution will be on the village board's agenda Monday night to hire Garrett Foster for 23 weeks, from Nov. 1 to April 14. Foster is a former village Department of Public Works employee and former village fire driver who also oversaw operations at Mount Pisgah during his tenure with the village, which ended in 2010. Since then, Foster has continued to help out with grooming and snowmaking at the mountain.
Sweeney said he's confident Foster can run the mountain again.
"He's done it on and off since he was a kid," Sweeney said Tuesday.
Sweeney's recommendation to hire Foster comes after a request for proposals the board issued in August to operate the ski center fell on deaf ears.
"No one responded," Sweeney said. "At this point in time, our season's so short we've got to get moving on it."
Asked if the village had approached any outside groups or organizations about running the mountain, Sweeney said he had previously talked with the Friends of Mount Pisgah, but he said the all-volunteer organization wasn't willing to take it on. He said Mayor Clyde Rabideau had planned to sit down with officials from the state Olympic Regional Development Authority, which runs two ski areas in the Adirondacks and one in the Catskills, but Sweeney wasn't sure if that dialogue took place.
Friends of Mount Pisgah President Wayne Feinberg confirmed Tuesday that his organization isn't able to run the whole operation.
"We did talk about it," he said. "FOMP is always looking for volunteers to run the ski lessons and races and programs that we have already, but we do not have enough volunteer base to take on operating a ski hill."
Feinberg said he fielded calls from other people that were interested and referred them to the village.
Friends of Mount Pisgah took over snowmaking operations at the mountain last winter. Feinberg said the group's volunteers are planning to do that again this winter.
"If we can save money for the village by helping the village make snow and decrease the cost of operation, it's more viable for the community," he said.
Mount Pisgah costs village taxpayers more to run than it makes in revenue each winter.
"If it loses money every year, it's going to be difficult to find anybody who would want to take over the operation," Feinberg said. "I think there's probably many ways they could focus on sales and expanding the operation there, which would decrease the deficit it has annually."
Feinberg said he had heard a rumor about the village hiring Foster. That would be "phenomenal," Feinberg said.
"When he was the manager in the past, he was committed to the facility and providing the best conditions possible," he said. "We're looking forward to working with him and having a great winter season."
The village has been without a manager at Mount Pisgah since Charlie Martin resigned in March as village parks and recreation director in what he described as a dispute over his pay and a lack of direction from the village over his job responsibilities. The position has yet to be filled.
When the village board agreed in August to issue the RFP for someone to run Pisgah, Trustee Paul Van Cott cast the lone dissenting vote. He said he wanted to keep open the possibility of finding a recreation director. Asked Tuesday about the lack of interest in the RFP and the potential hiring of Foster for the winter, Van Cott called it a short-term fix that fails to address a long-term need.
"We need a full-time recreation director for the village that is dedicated to Pisgah, our parks and our development as a tourism and local recreation mecca," Van Cott wrote in a Facebook message. "Bikes, hiking, skiing, swimming, etc., Saranac Lake needs someone who can administer what we he have and realize our potential for what we can be. For now, the village is falling short."
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