LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention will hold a public hearing Monday at 6 p.m. at the Belknap County complex on a proposed $2.6 million bond issue which would add an alpine coaster attraction to the Gunstock Mountain Resort's Adventure Park offerings.
An alpine coaster is a downhill ride built on mountainous terrain and which carries riders in carts running on rails, relying solely on gravity for speed. Riders can reach speeds of up to 25 miles-per-hour, but unlike on a roller coaster, they control their speed with a braking system fitted to the cart. Built between two feet and 30 feet above the ground, alpine coasters are not affected by rain and snow and can operate throughout the year.
Greg Goddard, general manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort, said that the coaster will be built adjacent to the tubing hill and ski jumps. Looking up the hill, the track taking riders to the starting point will follow to the right of the roadway that serves the jumps, reservoir and cell tower. The downhill track will wind through the wooded area to the right of the uphill track, making two complete circles and several sharp turns along the balance of its length. The downhill track will be 2,660 feet long with a vertical drop of 221 feet and a maximum grade of 18 percent. A round trip will take between four and five minutes, leaving the same amount of time to load and unload passengers. With 40 carts, the coaster can carry 250 riders an hour.
It is estimated that the ride will be completed in July of 2016.
The project is estimated to cost $2.6 million, of which the purchase of the coaster represents $1.5 million. Goddard anticipates that the coaster will operate at 25 percent of capacity in the summer and 30 percent of capacity and operate only Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the winter, when there are more visitors at the resort. Altogether the coaster is expected to carry nearly 85,000 riders a year. At an average ride price of $12, the coaster is projected to return an annual operating profit of $530,000, which is one-and-half times the highest annual debt payment of the 10-year bond issue which is being sought to finance the project.
The bond issue will require a two-thirds majority vote from the convention.
The convention will also hold a public hearing on the request of the Gunstock Area Commission for a $650,000 revenue anticipation note, which will be repaid by April 1, 2016 from operating receipts.
The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee will meet at 4:30 Monday to take up transfer requests from the Belknap County Commissioners as well as to review the 2015 budget.
In early July the commissioners agreed to request six transfers within the 2015 Belknap County Nursing Home budget to cover projected shortages in different accounts.
The largest request was for the transfer of $25,000 to overtime wages from the part-time wages account. Other requests included $13,000 for dietary wages overtime, which would come from full-time dietary wages, $1,750 for housekeeping overtime , $2,000 for office supplies and $2,000 for medical service supplies.
Another transfer involves $800 for overtime wages for training a new billing coordinator.
Another transfer request came up when the commissioners met on July 15 for $8,500 for the training of newly hired employees in the finance office on the financial accounting software used by the county.
Commissioners have said that they are also looking to meet with the Executive Committee to discuss a projected $80,000 shortfall in the $2.6 million health insurance budget, which they are hoping to close by offering an incentive for non-union workers to switch from a costlier HMO program to a site of service plan.
Commissioners want to get a sense of how the lawmakers will react if they propose using part of the $200,000 in contingency funds to cover the anticipated health insurance shortfall.