A group that wants better skiing at Mount Spokane says the state isn’t doing enough to attract new operators for the downhill ski resort.
Members of Mount Spokane 2000 say the bidding process unfairly favors Mt. Spokane Ski Corp., which has run the resort since 1976.
“Whether it’s a real bias or an apparent bias, I don’t know. But it appears biased,” said Ted Stiles, spokesman for Mount Spokane 2000, a group that includes local business and civic leaders.
Mt. Spokane Ski Corp.’s contract expires in June. The state Parks and Recreation Commission last year asked for proposals from companies that want to run the ski resort for the next 20 years.
About 12 possible bidders toured the ski area, but Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. was the only one that submitted a bid before the September deadline. The state is negotiating concession rights with the ski corporation, but also reopened bidding in January.
The deadline for new bids is next Friday, said Wayne McLaughlin, contract manager for the parks commission.
“There are six or seven interested parties we’ve mailed packets to,” but none have returned bids yet, McLaughlin said.
In a letter dated Feb. 15, Stiles asked the state to delay negotiations and revamp the bidding process. The state should consider giving preference to non-profit groups, Stiles said, because the profits could be put into the ski area.
“That doesn’t mean that it (the non-profit group) has to be Mount Spokane 2000,” Stiles said.
McLaughlin said the state isn’t likely to delay negotiations.
Stiles’ letter contends the bidding process is unfair because:
Potential bidders don’t know how much profit the ski resort makes.
“There aren’t very many .. bidders who would bid without having complete and reliable financial information,” said Stiles.
McLaughlin said the state considers the resort’s net profits proprietary information. Bidders were told how many skiers use the slopes, how much they spend and enough other information “to fill in the blanks.”
Competitors don’t know how much they would have to pay for five chair lifts, a lodge and other improvements Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. made at the mountain.
An appraiser hired by the state put the value of those assets at $3.5 million; an appraiser working for Mount Spokane 2000 gave a rough estimate of $600,000 for the lifts alone. The actual selling price, according to the state’s bidding procedure, would be negotiated after the contract is awarded.
That price, Stiles said, “would make a big difference on the royalties you can afford to pay to the state and the number of improvements you can make,” which the state considers in awarding concession rights.
Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. has the right to match any proposals given by competing bidders.
Stiles said that right was supposed to be granted only if the state decided the concessionaire had performed well in the past. Some skiers complained of poor service and upkeep during a 1993 public meeting.
McLaughlin said it’s a moot point unless there’s a competing bid.
MEMO: This is a sidebar which appeared with story DEADLINE The deadline for new bids to operate Mt. Spokane is Friday, March 3.