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Mt. Spokane Operators File Suit To Keep Resort

Eric Torbenson Staff writer

The Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. has challenged the legality of a new public authority trying to wrest the ski area concession from the company.

Spokane attorney Stephen Eugster filed a suit Thursday asking Spokane County Superior Court to declare the new authority illegal.

The Spokane County Commissioners approved a plan Oct. 3 that created the Mount Spokane Public Development Authority.

The commission appointed eight board members, mostly members of the Mount Spokane 2000 Study Group. The study group has been competing with Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. for the 20-year concession to run the state-owned ski hill.

Eugster’s suit said the county overstepped its authority in creating the new unit of government.

“The intent of the state law was never to allow county government to create a public corporation to compete against private enterprise,” Eugster said Friday. “And it certainly does not pertain to running ski areas.”

Not only is the way in which the county created the authority illegal in many respects, but the suit also asks that the state law the county based its authority on be ruled unconstitutional as well.

Eugster said the case, which will likely be appealed by the losing side, could have significant impact on limiting the scope of government in the state.

Several similar public development authorities exist in Seattle. The Pike Place Market and Seattle Art Museum in Seattle are examples.

Gregg Sowder, president of the ski corporation, would not comment on the suit Friday.

Ted Stiles, new board member of the public development authority, said the board intends to meet in the next two to three weeks to elect officers. In early drafts of the resolution that created the authority, Stiles, a Spokane attorney, was suggested to head the board.

Attempts to reach the new authority’s lawyer, Roy Koegen, were unsuccessful Friday. Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office Civil Division, which handles cases filed against the county, had not yet seen the suit.

Negotiations for the concession continue between Washington State Parks Commission, Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. and the Mount Spokane Public Development Authority.

Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. will run the ski area this season. The 20-year concession expired in June but the state renewed it for one year until negotiations are complete. The soonest management could change would be next year.

The parks commission endorsed the study group’s plan for the mountain in July. The group, made up of local business and civic leaders, wants more activities on the mountain.

If the state awards the concession to the study group/development authority, Mt. Spokane Ski Corp. will likely be bought out.

, DataTimes

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