Meadville Tribune

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June 18, 2014

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park holds first public meeting, adds new members

Next public meeting to include proposal of long-term improvement plan

A public meeting on a proposed long-term improvement plan for Conneaut Lake Park amusement park is scheduled next week by the new board of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.

Announcement of a public meeting on a proposed estimated 10-year improvement plan, which includes repayment of more than $900,000 in back property taxes within four years, came during Tuesday’s organizational meeting of the new Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park board. The public meeting is June 25 at 6 p.m. at Conneaut Lake Park Volunteer Fire Department’s fire hall.

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is the nonprofit corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the 122-year-old amusement park. The new board replaces the previous seven-member Trustees board who resigned last week as part of a consent decree approved by Crawford Court of Common Pleas.

The consent decree between Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the previous Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park removed the seven members of the previous Trustees with no admission of negligence or wrongdoing by the outgoing board members. In October 2013, Kane petitioned Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to dismiss the previous Trustees, claiming that board of Trustees had failed to properly care for the park.

The consent decree also approved the appointment of four new board members to the Trustees board agreed to by the Attorney General’s Office and the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County (EPACC), the county’s lead economic development agency.

The four new Trustees members — William Bragg, Joseph Ledford, Paul Huber and Denny Watson — all are board members of the Economic Progress Alliance. Huber was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting and is expected to offer his formal resignation as he has indicated to the board he will be unable to serve.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the new board appointed three additional members to its board — Joan Kozlowsky of Conneaut Lake Area Business Association; Tom Cholak of the Gannon University Small Business Development Center; and Maryann Martin, a retired economic development grant writer who had worked for the EPACC. The board also elected its officers with Bragg as chairman, Cholak as vice chairman and Ledford as secretary/treasurer.

The board may approve the appointment of additional board members, but EPACC board members on the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park board won’t comprise a majority of the new board’s membership and the Trustees’ meetings will remain open to the public, Mark Turner, EPACC’s executive director, said. The schedule of additional Trustees meetings is to be determined by the board.

The new board unanimously approved an administrative agreement with EPACC to oversee park operations; the appointment of Turner as executive director of Trustees with no additional compensation; and an EPACC proposal to repay more than $900,000 in overdue property taxes that Conneaut Lake Park owes within four years.

“We want to take a comprehensive approach,” Turner said of getting the amusement park back on track. “It will take time.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, Bragg said there is a lot of work to be done by Turner and the EPACC staff.

“The first thing we have to do is clean up the park and make it as family-friendly as we can,” Bragg said. “We have to look at all the leases and see who has what.”

Conneaut Lake Park owes $914,237.69 in back property taxes, interest and penalties to Conneaut School District, Crawford County and Sadsbury and Summit townships, dating back to 1997, according to the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

Under the EPACC proposal, a repayment agreement would have to be reached with all four taxing authorities with back taxes frozen at the amount due when the agreement is approved; and all taxes due during the length of the tax repayment agreement would have to stay current as well.

The tax repayment agreement calls for $100,000 down at the time of the agreement and the use of the insurance payout, about $600,000, from the 2013 Beach Club fire. The remainder will be paid from the possible sale of Conneaut Lake Park property.

Crawford County commissioners have stated publicly that Conneaut Lake Park will be sold for back taxes on Sept. 26 unless they are formally presented with an acceptable plan to repay the overdue taxes. The possibility of a sheriff’s sale is also an option, commissioners said. Commissioners have said they want the tax repayment plan to be within a reasonable time frame.

What to watch for next

The new Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park holds a public meeting about long-range plans for Conneaut Lake Park on June 25 at 6 p.m. the Conneaut Lake Park Volunteer Fire Department’s fire hall, Route 618, Conneaut Lake. The meeting outlines a park improvement plan and tax repayment plan.

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