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Eaglecrest waits for final vote count on bond

Proposition 1 would fund Eaglecrest Learning Center

Posted: October 5, 2012 - 12:04am

The board of directors of the Eaglecrest Ski Area held its regular meeting Thursday evening, with General Manager Matt Lillard discussing maintenance work at the facility, ticket sales for the upcoming season and the uncertain fate of $3.5 million marked for Eaglecrest in a ballot proposition.

Proposition 1, to authorize a $25 million bond issue that would help fund several projects in the City and Borough of Juneau, narrowly trails in vote returns from the Juneau municipal election Tuesday. The outcome remains too close to call.

The proposed Eaglecrest Learning Center is slated to get $3.5 million from the bond next year if the proposition succeeds.

About 1,600 absentee and questioned ballots will be added into the vote count Friday starting at about 11 a.m., City Clerk Laurie Sica said Thursday, shortly before the meeting.

“We’re waiting another day,” Lillard told the board.

Assemblymember Karen Crane, the Assembly liaison to the Eaglecrest board, said at the meeting that she thinks the proposition could pull through.

“I think there’s a real possibility,” said Crane.

Fifty-seven votes out of 6,131 cast separate the number of “no” votes from Election Day on Proposition 1 from the number of “yes” votes.

“Yes” actually led in the count Tuesday night until the final precinct, covering part of the relatively conservative Mendenhall Valley, reported and put “no” ahead.

Referring to pre-election predictions on the proposition’s chances of succeeding, Lillard remarked, “Those who said 50-50 were pretty darn right.”

After Friday, the next big date for Eaglecrest is Sunday, the last day of its Permanent Fund Dividend sale on season passes.

“If you take an average for the next four days, we should be on pace to be about $40,000 above where we were last year for the pass sales,” Lillard reported.

The PFD rate is $449 for an adult unlimited season pass. After Sunday, Lillard said, the “early bird sale” rate is $499 for the same item.

Lillard’s update on Eaglecrest’s maintenance situation touched on one of the most anticipated changes at the ski area this year: the completion of its four-year endeavor to install electric motors in its chair lifts.

“We’re wrapping up our summer projects and maintenance, and starting to prep for the season,” said Lillard. “Hooter (lift) passed its load test today, so outside of a final inspection in about two and a half weeks when the inspector comes up, Hooter is ready to go, and all the other lifts are ready to go or will be.”

Hooter is the last of three lifts to be upgraded with the electric drives. Black Bear lift, which is located farther away from the lodge, is the only one that is still running on diesel.

“We’re looking forward to a nice, quiet ride up on Hooter,” Lillard said.

Thursday’s meeting was likely the last for Crane, she told the board, as new liaison assignments will be made by Mayor-elect Merrill Sanford when the incoming Assembly is organized.

“They try and move us through the different ones,” Crane explained. “It gives us each a chance to learn more about different segments of the borough. And so I imagine somebody else will have the opportunity. But I’ve learned a lot. I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Board President Wayne Stevens praised Crane’s service as liaison to the Eaglecrest board.

“On behalf of the board, I want to say thank you very much, because in my tenure, you are singularly the best-attended Assemblymember and participant in the deliberations of Eaglecrest that we’ve had,” said Stevens. “So thank you very much. It means a lot.”

Board member Michael Stanley echoed Stevens.

“Karen, thank you,” Stanley said. “Your insights into the Assembly’s thinking and helping us shape our decision-making has been really helpful, so really, thank you very much.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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