Receiver outlines winter plan for Hermitage Club

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NEWFANE — Minimal winter maintenance planned at foreclosed Hermitage Club properties includes rehiring a licensed chairlift mechanic to Haystack Mountain, which hosted a private ski resort until financial struggles led to an early closing last season.

"Understanding the importance of these lifts, the director of mountain operations and I have worked to develop a work plan for basic lift maintenance throughout the winter season," court-appointed receiver Alan Tantleff of FTI Consulting wrote in his latest report.

The lift inspector's job is to include assessing the functionality of all lifts, checking lift terminals, lubing haul ropes, relocating grips, filling gearboxes and winterizing the lifts. The employee also is expected to help with tasks such as shoveling and building maintenance.

Appointed as receiver in May at the request of mortgage holder Berkshire Bank, Tantleff is charged with protecting and preserving the value of the ski resort, golf course and several inns that were part of the foreclosure complaint filed by the bank in February. Hermitage officials have remained hopeful about a loan to restructure the Hermitage Inn Real Estate Holding Company LLC and reopen the ski resort this winter.

During a hearing on the receiver's reports last month, Hermitage attorney Bob Fisher had asked that the scope of winter maintenance at the mountain be expanded. But Judge Robert Gerety denied the request, allowing the receiver to stay the course in solely keeping the equipment from deteriorating.

Tantleff said the request was confused by the facts that "the high-speed Barnstormer Lift was financed by the members who claim it as their collateral but refuse to pay for its maintenance, and much of the snowmaking equipment may be leased by or financed through Lakeland Bank, who has made repeated comments about retrieving the equipment."

The Clubhouse base lodge at the mountain, Snowgoose Inn, and the Hermitage Inn and the Carriage House next door will be heated. The golf club, the mid-mountain lodge, the Gatehouse, Horizon Inn and Doveberry Inn will not.

The properties to be heated "are essential to day-to-day operations and will be serviced propane through Suburban Propane," wrote Tantleff, who also scheduled plowing and salting of certain roads for the winter season to ensure safe access for employees, vendors and emergency personnel.

Tantleff said he visited the foreclosed properties in October and met with Hermitage managers.

"As discussed in previous reports, the economic situation has gradually stabilized," he wrote. "The subject properties have begun to show improvements after I received funding from the bank ... Many repairs have been made to maintain the business viability and collateral value of the subject properties."

Tantleff said Hermitage managers "worked tirelessly to improve the conditions" of the properties, which now are in an acceptable "mothballed" state. His report noted that a general lack of preventive maintenance caused significant damage.

"These issues, such as repairs to the fire alarm systems, chiller and [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] maintenance, and reinstatement of wi-fi at the Clubhouse ... have generally been resolved through the receivership," wrote Tantleff.

His report highlights a big improvement at the now-winterized golf course. Tantleff said this summer, maintenance staff had almost run out of fuel and fertilizer, chemical supplies had been depleted and damage to several essential machines caused concerns over whether they would become inoperable.

Between August and October, the golf course superintendent was granted several requests to pay for fertilizer, chemicals and equipment repairs, according to the report. Tantleff said various people told him the course is now in its best condition since opening.

Two golf course employees were furloughed for the winter season after mowing had been completed, irrigation pipes had been drained and work related to preserving the greens had been done, according to the report. A final chemical application and sand covering of the greens also had been anticipated.

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

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