Firm tasked to perform Olympic Valley finance study backs out | SierraSun.com

Firm tasked to perform Olympic Valley finance study backs out

Margaret Moran
mmoran@sierrasun.com

OLYMPIC VALLEY, Calif. — The consultant chosen to perform a fiscal study for the Olympic Valley incorporation effort has pulled out.

Earlier this week, Citygate Associates informed the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission it wouldn’t perform an analysis into the financial feasibility of the proposed town of Olympic Valley.

When asked why, Kristina Berry, executive officer of Placer County LAFCO office, said the reason is unclear, although a perceived potential conflict of interest discussed at LAFCO’s Aug. 13 meeting was not a factor.

Berry officially announced Citygate’s pull-out during a special LAFCO hearing Wednesday at Northstar California.

The conflict of interest issue stems from Citygate — which LAFCO selected three months ago — performing a capital and space needs study for Squaw Valley Public Service District’s fire department. That analysis looks at adequacy of fire and utility staffing; equipment; and indoor and outdoor facilities in the context of the proposed Squaw Valley village expansion project.

Squaw Valley Real Estate, the project applicant, is funding that study, according to past reports.

Citygate’s contract for the town study was not to exceed $51,750. Calls to the Folsom-based firm seeking comment on this story were not returned.

“In some ways, we’re relieved because we think that (perceived conflict of interest) should not be a cloud,” said Fred Ilfeld, chair for Incorporate Olympic Valley, the grassroots group pushing for the town’s creation. “The downside maybe that it is more expensive. … That’s to be seen, I guess.”

The analysis would have included the town’s boundaries as proposed by IOV — which are identical to Squaw Valley Public Service District’s boundaries and include the famed Squaw Valley ski resort — and one alternative analysis.

Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings (which owns Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts) asked LAFCO in April that Squaw be excluded, a request later shared by the Resort at Squaw Creek, Squaw Valley Lodge and individual property owners.

Cited reasons included concerns of the town’s economic viability, satisfaction with Placer County’s level of service in the valley and the large second-home owner population there.

“Citygate withdrew perhaps because of the uncertainty of the project due to continued delays in funding,” said Stan Devereux, a spokesman for Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, during Wednesday’s LAFCO meeting. “… Petitioners should be required to make full deposits up front, just like Placer County does with development projects that require staff and outside consultants’ time. This should be done before a new (request for proposal) is issued.”

Such deposits should be received by LAFCO within five businesses days after a contract approval, he recommended.

After Citygate’s contract was selected, IOV requested that the maximum $51,750 expense be paid in installments, which was denied by LAFCO.

On Sept. 5, LAFCO received a check from IOV for the entire amount, which has since been returned to the grassroots group.

“We paid it immediately when they gave us the invoice,” Ilfeld said.

LAFCO is working on selecting a new consultant by its Oct. 8 meeting, Berry said. A new consultant means a new timeline for preparation of the analysis — Citygate estimated it would take five months — and a new bid cost.

“What we want is not the exact dollar amount; it’s quality,” Ilfeld said. “We want a quality financial analysis.”