Though they support the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County’s proposal to revitalize Conneaut Lake Park, county commissioners say the amusement park remains on track to be sold this fall for more than $900,000 in overdue taxes unless a repayment plan is put in place.
On Thursday, county commissioners voted unanimously to support the Economic Progress Alliance’s effort to try and save the 120-year-old amusement park from a September tax sale.
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.
The Economic Progress Alliance, the county’s lead economic development agency, has submitted a proposal to the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park to create a new board to oversee the amusement park’s operations.
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.
The proposal also would allow the Economic Progress Alliance to take a plan to the county commissioners to pay off delinquent property taxes within the next four years and avoid the county’s tax claim sale scheduled for Sept. 26.
Prior to voting to endorse the Economic Progress Alliance, Commissioner C. Sherman Allen said a formal plan has to be presented to the county.
“We’re still on board for Sept. 26 folks,” Allen said as fellow commissioners Francis Weiderspahn Jr. and Jack Lynch nodded in agreement. “I don’t want anybody to think were slack on that.
“Our focus is the back taxes and basically the back taxes only,” Allen continued. “As people, I think Conneaut Lake Park is a viable industry not only for Conneaut Lake and that area, but Crawford County and northwestern Pennsylvania.”
Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance, briefly outlined the proposal at Thursday’s meeting of county commissioners.
The proposal would replace the Trustees’ board with a new seven-member board, four from the Economic Progress Alliance and three from the Trustees. Turner said the proposal is to reorganize, revision and revitalize the park.
The Economic Progress Alliance would be put into a “position of authority for the oversight, management and redevelopment of Conneaut Lake Park.”
Turner said the Economic Progress Alliance would develop a plan to repay back taxes and keep taxes current. Any Economic Progress Alliance plan for repayment of the taxes, however, cannot be presented without organizational control, he said.
Turner told the Tribune on Thursday afternoon that the proposed plan has been drafted and presented to Trustees, but the Economic Progress Alliance is awaiting a response. He said he wouldn’t publicly reveal the plan until it was approved by Trustees, the new combined board and then presented to commissioners.
Brian Pulito, attorney for Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, told the Tribune on Thursday afternoon that Trustees are scheduled to meet Monday evening to act on the Economic Progress Alliance’s proposal. Trustees are then expected to release a statement on Tuesday, Pulito said.
Weiderspahn, chairman of the county commissioners, said he is hopeful something could be worked out but reiterated the county’s position over the back taxes is firm.
“It’s up to them to come up with a plan, but certainly the sooner the better,” Weiderspahn said. “I don’t want a 10-year plan. I think four or five is more than generous.”
“It needs an agreed upon term with realistic and market based benchmark for repayment,” he said.