By Keith Gushard
As Crawford County continues negotiations with Conneaut Lake Park for repayment of hundreds of thousands in back taxes, one county commissioner wants Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park to hold a public meeting to inform the public on what its plans are for the amusement park.
Commissioner Jack Lynch suggests Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the private corporation that operates the public trust that owns the amusement park, hold a meeting similar to the Meadville Area Recreation Authority’s recent town hall meeting on the future of the Meadville Area Recreation Complex.
“A public forum in some manner or stripe would go a long way — both pro and con — in informing the public of what’s going on out there,” Lynch said of Conneaut Lake Park. “People are coming here and have been trying to get some clarification on what’s going on out there and they (Trustees) need to step up and have that forum.”
Tribune calls Tuesday to Jack Moyers, president of Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, about whether Trustees would hold such a forum weren’t returned.
Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park had until last Thursday to present a plan to the county to repay the more than $850,000 in real estate taxes and interest the amusement park owes to Crawford County, Conneaut School District and Sadsbury and Summit townships.
However, at Tuesday’s commissioner work session, Francis Weiderspahn Jr., county commissioner chairman, said negotiations are ongoing between the county and Conneaut Lake Park attorneys for a plan to repay the taxes.
“They’re working on a plan to get taxes caught up and paid up, hopefully before September so it won’t have to go to tax sale,” Weiderspahn said.
In mid-January, a total of $856,212.77 in back taxes and interest was owed by Conneaut Lake Park and went back as far as 1997, according to the Treasurer’s Office.
Commissioners reiterated Tuesday that a plan needs to be presented or the more than-100-year-old amusement park’s real estate may be sold for back taxes at the annual tax delinquency sale in September.
“That is a possibility,” Weiderspahn said of a potential tax sale.
Weiderspahn said he wants a repayment plan that is a “reasonable amount of time — not 10 years, but a matter of a few years.”
All three members of the current commissioner board, Weiderspahn, Lynch and C. Sherman Allen, campaigned in 2011 that a tax repayment plan had to be developed by Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
Wanda Ramaley, a Conneaut Lake area resident and owner of the former Stable Pit & Pub Restaurant near Conneaut Lake, questioned commissioners why Conneaut Lake Park has been allowed to continue to operate, lose money and not pay its taxes, yet her business property went to a tax sale in September for non-payment of three and one-half years of taxes. The former restaurant property now is scheduled for a judicial sale this spring.
“The reason it’s still going on is it’s never been brought to a tax sale in September,” Weiderspahn said of Conneaut Lake Park.
Weiderspahn said the county will remain in negotiations with Conneaut Lake Park to work out an acceptable plan before the 2013 tax sale in September.
“You can have negotiations up to that point,” Weiderspahn said of the tax sale. “Until then, you negotiate with them to try and reach a solution.”
Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.