By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune illustration
More than $850,000 in back real estate property taxes and interest that Conneaut Lake Park owes to various municipal governments may come to a head next month.
Crawford County officials have given Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park until Feb. 7 to present a plan to repay back taxes. That’s when county Treasurer Christine Krzysiak is scheduled to meet again with Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
At Tuesday’s commissioners work session, Krzysiak reported to commissioners that the park’s trustees did not present a plan to repay $856,212.77 in back taxes and interest at a meeting Jan. 8.
The $856,212.77 total is owed by Conneaut Lake Park to Crawford County, Conneaut School District and Sadsbury and Summit townships and goes back as far as 1997, according to the Treasurer’s Office.
Commissioners said Tuesday that a plan needs to be presented or the more-than-100-year-old amusement park’s real estate may be sold for back taxes at the annual tax delinquency sale in September.
“I hope something can be worked out,” Francis Weiderspahn Jr., chairman of the county’s board of commissioners, said following the work session. “We wanted a plan, no different than anybody else that pays taxes in Crawford County if they get behind. They’ve had that opportunity to make the plan, but you’re expected to come up with a plan, stick to it and make every effort to get caught back up.”
Tribune calls Tuesday to Jack Moyers, president of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, weren’t returned.
Three years of overdue real estate taxes and interest on two major assets of the amusement park were paid last fall by a business leasing those properties from the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
Park Restoration LLC paid back real estate taxes and interest for 2009, 2010 and 2011 totaling $21,726.43 on Sept. 4 for the Hotel Conneaut and the Beach Club, according to the Treasurer’s Office. Park Restoration operates the two properties under a lease agreement with the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
Also on Sept. 4, Park Restoration paid all back taxes and interest, totaling $5,419.26, dating back to 1997 on three lots, according to the Treasurer’s Office.
If Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park doesn’t present a plan to repay taxes, Weiderspahn said commissioners will have to consider putting the park’s property on the tax sale list. “The previous board (of commissioners) never pushed the issue,” he said. “It’s one of the issues we campaigned.”
The other two commissioners, C. Sherman Allen and Jack Lynch, agreed they want to see a written plan from the Trustees on how the back taxes will be paid.
Allen said he tried to get answers to the situation when he joined the previous board of commissioners in 2008, but no action was taken by that board.
“It’s well overdue that something be accomplished in this regard,” said Allen. “There are other people trying to make due diligence about paying taxes.”
Lynch said no one wants to see Conneaut Lake Park go away in the sense it becomes something completely different, or that public access to the lake is lost.
“The goal would be that these trustees can put together a plan through their profit centers to make good on their taxes,” Lynch said “It is time. There’s an ever-wide expectation in the community that this has to happen.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.