By Keith Gushard
Officials of a popular fall festival plan to ask Crawford County government to delay the county’s annual sale of properties for overdue property taxes until after the festival so it doesn’t lose its location.
“We plan to ask it be pushed back to November,” Doris Henderson, a co-chair of the Conneaut Lake Pumpkin Fest, said Sunday.
The three-day Pumpkin Festival, coordinated by the Conneaut Lake Area Business Association, is held at Conneaut Lake Park the second weekend of October. The annual event, which features more than 140 food and craft vendors, also has a variety of musical and other entertainment. This year’s event is slated for Oct. 11 to 13.
However, the more than 120-year-old amusement park is on track at this point to be sold for back property taxes at the county’s annual September tax upset sale because more than $750,000 is owed to various municipal governments. This year’s tax sale is scheduled for Sept. 26 — two weeks before Pumpkin Fest 2014 would begin.
If Conneaut Lake Park ends up being sold for back taxes, the new owners may not want to honor Pumpkin Fest’s contracts — leaving the festival with no place to go, according to Henderson.
“We don’t want to go someplace else,” said Henderson, who also is vice president of CLABA. “The Pumpkin Fest and Conneaut Lake Park go hand-in-hand.”
Henderson said Pumpkin Fest attracts upward of 30,000 to 35,000 people to Conneaut Lake while Ghost Lake, an annual haunted Halloween event at the amusement park held weekends in October, attracts another 23,000 to 25,000 people to it.
“It brings a lot of money to the whole area,” Henderson said. “We’re asking for a date change (for the tax sale).”
There are 57 vendors from the 2013 Pumpkin Fest already pre-signed for 2014.
“We sent out contract documents to other vendors who had inquired last week,” Henderson said.
CLABA officials plan to discuss a tax sale date change with county commissioners at the commissioners work session on March 11.
Meanwhile, preparations for the planned sale of the amusement park for back taxes continue.
Last month, county commissioners hired Pittsburgh-area law firm Weiss Burkardt and Kramer LLC to work on preparing the more than 40 different properties within Conneaut Lake Park for the 2014 annual tax claim sale. In May 2013, commissioners announced plans to move forward with the tax sale, but the sale wouldn’t happen until at least September 2014 due to the number of properties and complexities involved with the amusement park.
In late January, commissioners reiterated their stance that the park’s properties will go to the annual tax sale unless Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park put forth either a viable repayment plan or the more than $750,000 in overdue property taxes are paid before the Sept. 26 tax sale.
Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is a corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the park. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has been in charge of the park since 2007.
As of Dec. 31, 2013, a total of $752,692.77 in overdue property taxes, interest and penalties was owed to the county, Summit and Sadsbury townships, and Conneaut School District by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park — dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.