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Gunstock Mountain Resort gets nearly $1M loan from county


LACONIA — After a tough winter, the Gunstock Area Commission needed nearly $1 million to tide the resort over until next year.

The Belknap County Delegation unanimously approved a request by the Gunstock Area Commission for a $950,000 revenue anticipation note following a public hearing held last night at the Belknap County Complex.
The amount approved was $300,000 more than last year ‘s and the increase was due to what Gunstock Mountain Resort General Manager Gregg Goddard said was the poorest ski season in recent memory. He said that the area drew only a little over 120,000 skier visits during the season, down from the 185,000 high of two years ago.
Total revenue from all operations, including skiing, dropped to $9,096,039, down by over $2.35 million from last year, with about $1 million of that loss coming during the Christmas vacation period, normally Gunstock’s busiest time of the entire ski season.
Goddard said that last year Gunstock’s net revenue was close to a half million dollars but that it was nearly a negative one million this year, necessitating the use of reserve funds in order to maintain operations.
Gunstock still receives more than 70 percent of its total revenue from skiing operations in a 100-day period from mid-December to late March, despite the addition of new summer attractions such as its longest in North America zip line and treetop adventure park. Goddard said those attractions raised over $2 million in revenue, which is just 22 percent of the entire revenues for the county-owned resort.
The revenue anticipation note provides a short-term cash flow for Gunstock and is to be repaid by April 1 of next year from profits made during the ski season. Goddard said that $300,000 of the revenues would be drawn down in June, another $300,000 in September and the remaining $350,000 in October.
He also presented the 2017 budget adopted recently by the commission which project 170,000 skier visits next winter with a $12.1 million on total revenues and a net profit of $1.3 million.
Work is progressing at the resort on its newest attraction, a mountain coaster which will carry riders in carts running on rails up to 30 feet above the ground, relying solely on gravity for speed, 2,660 feet downhill, around two circles and through sharp curves, at speeds up to 25 mph.
Originally projected to open in the middle of July, Goddard said that with the short winter and early spring he hopes that it will be up and running by the Fourth of July.

Laconia bank robber escapes prison, caught

CONCORD — A man who pleaded guilty of robbing the Bank of New Hampshire downtown Laconia branch in January of 2013 and who escaped this past weekend with another inmate from the New Hampshire State Prison is now being held in a special housing unit within the prison said Department of Corrections spokesman.

Johnathan Ellinger, 45, formerly homeless in Laconia, and Dale Clark, 43, formerly of Franklin, escaped from a minimum-security section of the state prison on May 7 at 9:30 p.m.

State Police alleged the men stole a pickup truck from a business in a Concord area and were captured in Chesterfield just before they crossed into the Vermont border the next day.

Ellinger pleaded guilty to armed robbery in June 2013 and was sentenced to 3 to 6 years.

After Ellinger's brazen robbery, it took city police about 3 ½ hours to find him. When he was arrested, he told them that he "did what he had to do" and surrendered to them without incident.

Although bank robbery is a federal crime, at the time Laconia Police said the FBI was not going to investigate because of the work Laconia had already done in finding him. He made away with less than $1,000.

Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Lyons said both will be charged with felony escape. He said the State Police continue to investigate and additional charges are forthcoming.

– Gail Ober

Merrill Fay looks to buy land for boat storage from Airport Authority


GILFORD — Marina owner Merrill Fay is looking to expand his boat storage capacity by purchasing a piece of land from the Laconia Airport Authority.

The 2.96-acre lot is just north of the property that houses Granite State Glass and is actually owned by the city of Laconia but lies entirely in Gilford.

Airport Director Marv Everson said Fay filed a letter of intent in late April with the authority to purchase the land. Should it be sold to him, the proceeds would go to benefit the Airport Authority and the land and building would be added to Gilford's tax roles.

The Gilford Site Plan Review Committee met yesterday morning and had few questions for engineer Steven Smith, who is working on behalf of Fay.

The Planning Board must approve a boundary line adjustment that is mainly to square off the lot and incorporate an old access road to what was supposed to be an industrial park years ago. It meets on May 16.

Smith told the Site Plan Review Committee members that, since the airport expanded the runway, there was not going to be any future use of the land by the airport. Everson echoed Smith's analysis said that the land is "off-airport property."

Conservation Commission Chairman Carole Hall said there was one corner near the rear of the property that is prime wetlands, but Smith said Fay has no need to go anywhere near it. If that is the case, Hall said she sees no reason why the Conservation Commission would need to review the application.

The largest amount of work that needs to be done, said Everson, is to satisfy the Federal Aviation Administration. He said the lot must be surveyed and a "yellow book appraisal," which satisfies all federal government land requirements, must be completed.

"We have to get a land release from the FAA in order to sell the property," he said, noting that once all of the paperwork and plans are complete, it should take them about 45 days to process.

As the owner, the city is party to the authority's relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration, while development at the airport is subject to the Gilford zoning ordinance in addition to the approval of the authority and FAA.

For Fay, its just a better was to serve his customers. He plans on building a 118-foot-by-100-foot enclosed steel structure that he will use to store boats.

"I don't like shrink wrap," he said, adding that it's expensive to put on and problematic to dispose of once winter is over.

Fay also said he wants to keep the boats he stores as close as possible to his marina and not transport them to Belmont and Laconia.

Everson sees the proposal as a win for the authority, which will get some money to do some items in its long-term management plan and as a win for the town of Gilford that will reap the tax income from the land and facility.

Mayor Edward Engler, by virtue of his being mayor, is the Chairman of the Airport Authority, and said the sale would have to be approved by the City Council but he sees no reason why it wouldn't agree.

"If it is good for the region, then it is good for all of us," said City Manager Scott Myers, who also said he sees no reason why the council wouldn't agree to the sale.

The Laconia Airport Authority was established to maintain an airport in the town of Gilford or elsewhere in Belknap County and to establish and maintain auxiliary landing places and facilities in Belknap County and towns contiguous to Lake Winnipesaukee, according to the city of Laconia website.

05-10 Fays-AirportmapWSTAR

The star marks the location of land by the airport which Fay's Boat Yard, marked to the right, wants to buy for boat storage. (Graphic courtesy Google Maps)