Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

We have a couple of simple questions for Baker County's three

commissioners - questions they need to answer should they decide later

this month to accept the gift of Anthony Lakes ski area.

Question 1: Based on the current owners' 12 years of records, how many skier visits would the county need to break even?

Question 2: In how many of those 12 years did Anthony Lakes attract at least that many skiers?

The answers could go far in persuading skeptical residents that the

county, by taking over the ski area, would not be risking any of their

tax dollars.

That risk looks to us to be relatively low.

Although the trio of couples who own Anthony Lakes say they've never made a profit, they concede that the county might be able to trim operating expenses by assigning certain tasks, such as bookkeeping and marketing, to employees or contractors who are already on the county's payroll.

As an example, the county recently hired contractor Tim Bishop to market the county's attractions. Bishop said he's embarked on a crash course of sorts to learn how best to lure skiers.

Ultimately, it seems likely that the worst-case scenario in this deal is that the county, to ensure its taxpayers are protected, would be forced to admit defeat and close Anthony Lakes.

But even then the county, or the nonprofit corporation to which the county could hand the reins, would have debt-free assets with a market value of $1.2 million, according to the Union County Assessor. (The lodge, chairlift and other structures are just across the county border, which means Baker County wouldn't lose any property taxes if it takes over the resort. The resort pays Union County about $4,400 per year.)

We support the county in trying to save an important attraction, one that benefits many local businesses during a season when tourism slacks.

The ideal outcome is that Baker County, unlike the current owners, finds a private buyer, and soon. But until then, taxpayers deserve assurance from the county that it will at least break even on the venture.