Meadville Tribune

Local News

January 24, 2014

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park ask for public support ahead of court date

Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has issued an appeal for support through social media in its petition fight with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane over the potential ouster of the park’s board of trustees.

The two sides are due in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas on Monday for a status conference on the state’s petition to oust the board.

In October, the Kane’s office petitioned county court to oust the current Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park for allegedly failing to properly care for the amusement park.

In its petition, the state alleges, among other things, that: The board failed to take advantage of business opportunities that would have generated more revenue; that Trustees steered business away from Hotel Conneaut; and that these incidents and failure to insure Dreamland Ballroom and The Beach Club represent “serious breaches of their (Trustees) fiduciary duty.”

The petition alleges the damage inflicted on Conneaut Lake Park includes failing to insure against the structural loss due to the fire at the Dreamland Ballroom on Feb. 1, 2008, and the fire at The Beach Club on Aug. 1, 2013; and failing to exploit opportunities and/or promote the best interests of the park.

A posting by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park on the park’s Facebook page asks the park’s supporters to contact the deputy attorney general handling the case, as well as area state legislators, to voice support toward the Trustees.

The text of the Trustees’ message on Facebook is below:

“In the spring of 2013, we received a letter from the Attorney General’s office, asking for financial and operational information. We sent off a 70+ page packet that we confirmed was received. We never heard back with any questions, concerns, comments...nothing. Over the summer, the AG’s office received negative feedback and they then filed a complaint seeking to remove the Trustees. We were never contacted to discuss the feedback, or any issues raised. We urge you to read the following and contact Atty. Eugene Herne of the AG’s office. Given only complaints, we’ve been advised that his office needs to now hear from the supporters. We contend that the allegations are unfounded and this board has made more progress than any prior and should remain, in order to continue the progress and preservation that has been made since 2007.

“In 2007, we were handed a closed amusement park laden with debt, no funds with which to open or operate it, and deteriorating facilities. Being mid season, we had only a meager cashflow from the campground. On the other hand we had a magical place with historical significance, a place where memories and relationships had been made for generations, and most importantly a place with a future. We were determined to not let CLP fall to the demise of other small parks like Idora, Cascade, West View, Geauga Lake, etc.

“During our tenure this board has managed to finalize and bring to fruition a grant for the installation and operation of water treatment equipment for the water plant that is the responsibility of the Park (supplies not only the Park facilities, but also over 150 local residents). This filtration system has a value of over $300,000 and without it, the water plant was out of compliance and in danger of being shut down. The water plant operation is not a revenue source. This board brought in the leasees to reopen and restore operations in the Park, resulting in vast improvements in each of their respective areas as well as the boardwalk. This board is responsible for bringing in the opportunity that won $50,000 from Pepsi to reopen the dormant and endangered Blue Streak, secured a grant for the carousel, entered the FASTSIGNS contest, and succeeded in achieving the eligibility to be on the National Register of Historic Places (CLP is tied for 10th oldest amusement park in the US). This designation allowed us to compete for (and win) a $25,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission for the continued restoration of the Blue Streak. Twice, the votes of supporters in the Pepsi and FASTSIGNS national contests proved that people all over the country feel this park deserves to be saved and the work being done the past few years should continue. On a more local note, the regional roller coaster clubs have made significant donations to repair and maintain the Blue Streak, and they visit frequently to support it.

“During our tenure, we have received various offers to operate segments of the business. When offers are evaluated, all things must be considered, including but not limited to the financial backing of the offer, status of current obligations, reputation of the offering party and the impact it will have on the property, family atmosphere, entity, other leaseholders, public, and the preservation of the history and nostalgia of the Park as a whole. If the demands are unreasonable and there is cause for concern related to any of the aforementioned, then the offer (albeit seemingly good from the “outside”) is not pursued.

“Despite the disputes and nonpayment by some leasees, (Lisko, Swank, Park Restoration), this board has been able to pay its operational bills with the exception of annual property taxes. In addition, payments have been made on a mortgage, sewer lien, sales tax debt, and other debts, totaling in excess of $70,000/year. For 10 years prior to this board, property taxes went unpaid with no action from the county. During our tenure, that precedent continued until 2013 when the county increased pressure to address them. We met with representatives of the county and presented a plan and did pay the Spring 2013 tax bill. Park Restoration paid their lease-obligated property taxes and Adams Amusements voluntarily paid on taxes from their operations and donations. This is a greater effort toward this obligation than has been made in the past fifteen years.

“State and local laws require that $480,000 of the insurance proceeds from the loss of the Beach Club be applied to the back taxes on the parcel where it stood. We have been working with all the leasees to finalize a collaborative plan to address the remaining tax debt.

“Removal of this board will, most assuredly, place the future of CLP in jeopardy. Please contact Atty. Eugene Herne by this Friday, January 24th (today) to voice your support so that we may continue our mission. This is an urgent matter.

Office of the Attorney General Charitable Trusts and Organizations Section, 6th Floor, Manor Complex, 564 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15219; phone: (412) 565-7680; fax: (412) 565-3181; email: eherne@attorneygeneral.gov

Thank you,

Board members of the Trustees of Connneaut Lake Park”

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