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April 24, 2014

Trustees table revitalization plan for Conneaut Lake Park to 'end of the week'

MEADVILLE — For the second time this week, Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has tabled action on an economic revitalization plan for the amusement park.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park voted to table a decision on a plan from the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County following a closed-door negotiation session between representatives of the Trustees and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, said Brian Pulito, the attorney for Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.

In October, the Office of Attorney General Kathleen Kane petitioned the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas to oust the current Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, claiming the current board has failed to properly care for the amusement park. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park is the corporation that oversees the public trust that owns the park.

The Office of Attorney General still is reviewing Conneaut Lake Park’s financial records, meeting minutes and insurance policies.

The state’s petition 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.”

Crawford County Court of Common Pleas won’t act on the state’s petition until discovery in the case is completed later this year.

“It was very productive,” Pulito said of Wednesday’s meeting. “I can’t disclose what happened, but it was a positive action for the Trustees. The (Trustees) board should take action by end of the week.”

Tribune calls throughout Wednesday afternoon to the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General for comment were not returned.

On Monday, the Trustees board voted to table action on economic development plan from the Economic Progress Alliance, the county’s lead economic development agency, to create a new board to oversee the amusement park’s operations. Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park has been in charge of the park since 2007.

The Economic Progress Alliance’s proposal would replace the Trustees board with a new seven-member board — four from the Economic Progress Alliance and three from the Trustees — to provide management and oversight to reorganize, revision and revitalize the park.

Though officials from Economic Progress Alliance were invited to Wednesday’s meeting, they didn’t attend. Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance, said he didn’t think it was appropriate.

“They have a good understanding of what they need to engage,” Turner said. “We have to wait and see what they want to do.”

Last week, Crawford County commissioners Francis Weiderspahn Jr., Jack Lynch and C. Sherman Allen unanimously endorsed the Economic Progress Alliance’s proposal as a way to save Conneaut Lake Park from being sold at the county’s annual tax sale Sept. 26.

However, commissioners required an acceptable formal plan for Conneaut Lake Park to repay overdue property taxes of more than $900,000 that date back to 1997. The proposal would repay the property taxes over a four-year period, according to Turner.

As of April 4, Conneaut Lake Park owed $906,595.44 in back property taxes, interest and penalties to Conneaut School District, Crawford County and Sadsbury and Summit townships, dating back to 1997, according to figures from the Crawford County Treasurer’s Office.

Allen attended Wednesday’s meeting as an observer, while Weiderspahn and Lynch did not.

“There was good discussion,” Allen said.

“No,” Allen said when asked if any concrete agreement came out of the meeting. “As far as the county goes, I was gathering information.”

Christine Kryzsiak, Crawford County’s treasurer, said she, too, attended Wednesday’s meeting as an observer. She declined to comment on the meeting.

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