Marble Mountain looks to cut costs to ensure viability
Chairman is questioned at 1st hearing of N.L. public accounts committee in nearly 7 years
By Rob Antle, CBC News
Posted: Aug 29, 2012 3:17 PM NT
Last Updated: Aug 29, 2012 4:51 PM NT
A “line by line” review of expenses is underway to ensure the future of the Marble Mountain ski facility, according to the chair of the non-profit corporation that runs the hill.
The Marble Mountain Development Corporation currently receives an annual operating grant of $400,000 from the provincial government.
“If that [was] not there, what would we do?” MMDC board chairman Bob Pike told a hearing of the house of assembly’s public accounts committee Wednesday.
“We have to start operating like private industry.”The Marble Mountain Development Corporation says it is working to implement recommendations of the province's auditor general. (CBC)
The house of assembly’s public accounts committee spent hours Wednesday asking Pike about the findings of a recent auditor general’s report.
In January, the AG highlighted issues related to Marble Mountain’s financial position, compensation and tendering — among a series of concerns.
“Audit reports are not always pretty,” Pike acknowledged.
But he said the findings offer the corporation opportunities for improvement.
A couple of bad winters contributed to worse-than-anticipated results, Pike indicated.
According to the auditor general, the corporation posted operating deficits of $146,028 and $163,059 in the fiscal years ending in 2010 and 2011. That swell of red ink is over and above the annual grant of $400,000 being ponied up by taxpayers.
Marble Mountain had a bank debt of $1.9 million as of last year, and an accumulated operating deficit of $15.9 million since being established in 1988.
Pike said the ongoing evaluation of expenses at Marble Mountain will include everything from having food prepared in advance instead of fresh to reduce costs, and possibly cutting the number of staff responsible for lift tickets on certain days.
“Everything is under review,” he said.
Pike said there has been “unprecedented turnover” in the management team at Marble Mountain in the past 12 to 18 months. He became chair in April 2011.Marble Mountain is located east of Corner Brook
He acknowledged “a lack of documentation” related to some of the concerns raised by the auditor general earlier this year.
NDP MHA Christopher Mitchelmore pressed Pike on Marble Mountain’s failure to pay enough in health and post-secondary tax back to the province.
The corporation was reassessed $27,000 for failing to remit all of its taxes, and was hit with interest and penalties of another $20,000 as of last year.
Pike acknowledged that there have been some problems.
But he stressed that work is underway to upgrade the “archaic” financial system in place at Marble.
Liberal MHA Eddie Joyce, meanwhile, stressed that many of those currently running the operation were not working there when auditors identified problems.
Tory MHA Sandy Collins asked whether Marble Mountain is considering reducing its $200,000-a-year in marketing expenditures, given its financial position and emerging focus on using social media to accomplish the same goals.
Pike said the corporation could look at doing that “over time,” but stressed that Marble can’t reach all demographics with social media alone.
“We still have a lot to do on our marketing strategy,” Pike noted.
1st hearing since 2006
Wednesday’s public hearing marked the first for the legislative watchdog in 2,414 days.
The last time the public accounts committee met — other than behind closed doors — was Jan. 19, 2006.
While the meeting was open to the public, it was not broadcast on the legislature’s television channel.
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