Squaw ski resort declines offer of state grant

Posted March 09, 2009, at 8:05 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:01 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The owner of Squaw Mountain Resort chose not to apply for a $200,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for improvements to the ski resort.

James Confalone, the ski resort’s owner, had been working with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council to secure funds to help make improvements to the double chairlift that serves the upper part of the mountain.

A letter of intent to seek a grant was filed last month by the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council on behalf of the Piscataquis County commissioners and Confalone.

Tom Kittredge, the council’s executive director, said Monday that Confalone decided not to vie for the funds after being provided with a list of the state grant requirements.

“He [Confalone] decided it wasn’t worth it for the amount of money it was,” Kittredge said. The deadline for the grant application was March 6.

Confalone said Monday county officials approached him about the CDBG program and asked him whether he would be interested. Considering the taxes he has paid over the years, Confalone said he looked over the application and signed a letter of intent.

When he later looked over a summary of the grant requirements, however, Confalone said he decided not to file an application. “I decided, as nicely as they tried to make it for me, I couldn’t possibly go along with it. It was a little too complicated,” he said.

“The county was trying to do the right thing by introducing me to this thing, and he [Kittredge] did tell me that it was going to take quite a bit to put it together,” Confalone said.

If Confalone had received a grant, he said, he would have been required to interview any future employees and ask them and their spouses about their financial situations. “I’m not going to ask people that; I took exception to the fact,” he said.

In addition, Confalone said there were so many other regulations involved in the grant process that he would have had to hire a staff of people to ensure his compliance. That would defeat his intent to keep the cost of lift tickets low so the community and everyone who skis there gets an excellent value for their money, he said.

Confalone said the lower mountain has been open on weekends, school vacations and holidays and has had a good turnout. He said five new trails were opened on the lower mountain this season.

The focus of the grant application would have been to rebuild the double chairlift, repair the 28 towers along the lift and remove a rock outcropping at the upper part of the mountain that makes snowmaking inefficient and cost-prohibitive, according to Kittredge. The double chairlift has not been operated since 2004.

Block grants for private business require a one-for-one financial match from the business owner. Confalone also would have been required to create one job per $30,000 in grant funds, a minimum of seven full-time jobs that pay above the average county per capita income in Confalone’s case.

The ski resort provides a lot of indirect benefits to the surrounding area, according to Kittredge. “The county still wants to work with Confalone if he wants to do that,” he said.

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