Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation clarifies it is not the subject of town auditFoundation affirms commitment to recreation area project
CAMDEN — With the Feb. 15 completion date set for an audit of Camden's financial management of the Snow Bowl redevelopment, the private foundation that raised $4.5 million for the ski area expansion is clarifying that town finances — and not foundation finances — are being scrutinized.
The Camden Select Board voted last month to authorize $12,000 for an audit and detailed analysis of the town's financial management of the redevelopment process, from 2012 to 2016. The audit became the subject of speculation a week later when Camden's former Town Manager Pat Finnigan resigned.
On Feb. 7, members of the Board and Capital Campaign Committee of The Ragged Mountain Recreation Area Foundation announced they "met recently to discuss the news of possible budget overruns related to the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area redevelopment project.
"The Foundation is deeply committed to the long-term success of the four-season recreation area as an asset of the Town of Camden, its residents, and visitors. As such, the Foundation Board is compelled to address potential questions raised with this recent news."
The announcement continues, "RMARF'’s sole purpose and mission since 1991 is raising funds to support the town’s capital investments in the Ragged Mountain Recreation Area, and to help ensure the long-term success of this vital asset.
The Town of Camden is responsible for the execution of capital improvement projects for the town-owned and operated facility, as well as the day to day operations and costs of the Camden Snow Bowl and Recreation area.
The Town has undertaken an Audit of the town’s accounts associated with the redevelopment project. The Foundation’s understanding is that this audit is to better understand project expenses, possible cost overruns and requisitioning of funding from the Foundation for budgeted expenses.
The audit is not about the RMRA Foundation, it is about the way the Town has spent its funds on the project. The Foundation is very interested in ensuring the effective expenditure of our donor’s funds, and, as such, is equally as interested in learning the results of the audit.
The RMRA Foundation looks forward to the completion of the audit of the Town of Camden’s accounts within the next couple of weeks. Upon which time, The Foundation will review the audit and comment further."
RMRAF is a partner with the town of Camden in a public/private partnership formed to redevelop the Ragged Mountain recreation area, and town-owned ski mountain.
In 2006, Camden's Parks and Recreation Committee recommended commissioning a long-range plan and feasibility study for the Snow Bowl. The study conducted by Horizons Engineering outlined a list of capital and operating improvements aimed at stabilizing and improving the community ski area's financial performance, according to a 2013 town report. The town formed a RMRA Redevelopment committee, co-chaired by Bob Gordon and Rick Knowlton, to "develop recommendations for the future of the Ragged Mountain Recreational Area and to specifically explore four-season use of the area," per the report.
The town committee turned to RMRA Foundation for financial support for the planning process, and a concept plan was developed and presented in public meetings in 2007 and 2008. Horizons Engineering issued a completed Camden Snow Bowl Ski Area Concept Plan in 2008. The town committee called for "$6.5 million in infrastructure expansion, renovation and replacement projects" for ski operations and expanded use of the area. In 2008, Camden voters approved a $2 million municipal bond to support the redevelopment project by a margin of nearly 2:1.
Since 2012, the focus of the public/private partnership has been a major expansion of the ski area's trails, snow-making equipment, and lifts. RMRAF initially raised $4.5 million for the project that originally included a new lodge. The ski area was expanded in 2014. Phase I and II of the redevelopment plan, excluding the construction of a new lodge, were completed by January 2015.
In March 2015, Camden officials revealed that redevelopment cost overruns were $1.2 million. At that time, the Foundation announced it would cover those cost overruns, and raise an additional $1.6 million for the lodge, estimated to cost $2.9 million. Gordon, President of RMRAF, said Feb. 3, that fundraising for the lodge has been underway.
Courier Publications reporter Susan Mustapich can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.