Hermitage avoids shutoff of utilities

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WILMINGTON — The Hermitage Club averted having its water and sewer services shut off at various properties by making a payment of past-due fees the day before a scheduled appeal hearing.

"Just received payment in full from the Hermitage, with a request from them to cancel tomorrow's appeal hearing," Cold Brook Fire District Administrator Kimberly Hicks wrote to the Reformer at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Hermitage runs a private ski resort at Haystack Mountain, a golf course, and inns and restaurants in the Deerfield Valley. The company owed Cold Brook about $87,000 for outstanding water and sewer bills going back six months.

The Prudential Committee, which governs the Cold Brook Fire District, expected to have an appeal hearing Saturday morning. An attorney for the Hermitage requested the appeal hearing after the company missed a deadline Wednesday to make the delinquent payments. The company's finance director had asked whether a minimal payment could be made. Citing Vermont statute, Hicks pointed to an appeal hearing as the only way to avoid shutting off the services.

Select Board Vice Chairman John Gannon, who is also a state representative, told the Hermitage a shutoff might be more expensive than the company understood because it would also shut down the fire suppression system.

In October, the Hermitage's financial struggles were blamed on poor weather during the 2015-2016 winter season and a slow membership drive. Membership dues have not been sufficient to cover operating costs and real estate operations were subsiding those costs, company officials had said.

Members were asked for a one-time due of $10,000 to help pay off vendors. Last month, company founder and CEO Jim Barnes reported having collected 75 percent of those dues.

Last week, Hermitage Finance Director Chad Bullock said the company is "working through all our payables."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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