September 21, 2019
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State sues owner of Big Squaw Mountain ski resort over deteriorating conditions

AUGUSTA, Maine — The state has sued the owner of a Greenville ski area, known as Big Squaw Mountain, claiming that he used the property to secure more than $4 million in loans but failed to use that money to reopen the ski lift, trails and lodge.

The complaint, filed July 28 in Kennebec County Superior Court by the Maine attorney general’s office, also alleged that owner James Confalone of Florida illegally harvested timber on 169 acres between 2010 and 2012. The value of the timber could have been as high as $136,000 if it had been sold to a mill, the complaint said.

Information about the wood harvest was referred to the attorney general by the former Land Use Regulatory Commission in 2012. Timothy Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general’s office declined to comment on the timing of the lawsuit’s filing.

Efforts to reach Confalone’s attorney, Charles W. Cox of Newport, were unsuccessful this week.

The lawsuit claims that the company’s “failure to invest, maintain, expand and operate the entire ski area and resort has had a devastating impact on the economy of Greenville and surrounding communities.”

The state owned the resort from 1974 to 1986. It passed through several owners before the 1,216-acre ski area was sold in 1995 to Confalone for $550,000 “with the explicit understanding that the purchaser would invest in and improve the ski area and resort, and maintain and operate it as an attractive and safe resort for the benefit of the people of Maine and the Greenville community,” the lawsuit said.

The state is asking that Confalone’s company, Moosehead Mountain Resort Inc., pay damages into an escrow account to be overseen by the state to repair and restore the ski mountain, ski lifts and other resort property to the condition they were in before Confalone purchased the ski area.

The complaint does not include a cost estimate for those repairs but asks that the firm be ordered to post a performance bond of at least $1 million and that the $4.2 million the firm allegedly obtained using the property as collateral be used for repairs and maintenance at the resort.

Moosehead Mountain Resort failed to perform basic maintenance and repairs on the resort’s hotel and base lodge, which led to their deterioration and closure in 2001, the complaint alleged. In 2004, the ski lift serving the 12 upper trails failed, injuring four people. It has not been repaired nor operated since then. Confalone closed the ski area in 2010.

The lawsuit also said that Confalone’s company owes more than $31,000 in property taxes for 2014 and 2015. Liens have been placed on the property by the state’s Unorganized Territory Property Tax Division.

Since the winter of 2013, the not-for-profit Friends of Squaw Mountain, which is not a party to the lawsuit, has leased the lower ski lift, trails and lodge from Confalone for $1 a year. The organization has cleared and groomed 15 trials, refurbished the lodge facility, repaired the lower lift so that it has passed inspection, and offered skiing and snowboarding lessons, according to information on its website.

The group expects to begin operations at the ski resort again at the end of the year.

 



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