Pictured: Conneaut Lake Park Board of Trustees President Jack Moyers with Secretary Carol West.
MEADVILLE – Just one more season, they say, and they’ll be happy. Several local residents showed up at the regularly scheduled county meeting yesterday, asking the Crawford County Commissioners to postpone a scheduled tax sale of Conneaut Lake Park in order to guarantee that the park will exist for the biggest autumn activities – Ghost Lake, and Pumpkin Fest.
Juanita Hampton, of the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the economic impact of these two events is huge. She says people need to know now whether there will be a park or not, in order to conduct marketing and secure vendors’ contracts.
“Our goal today was to see if the commissioners could work with us to see if we could move that date so that these two events would be able to be marketed, contracts could be signed, and we could move forward with these events this year,” Hampton said.
Hampton claimed Ghost Lake and Pumpkin Fest result in about 59-million dollars in “trickle-down” revenue to the local economy, in terms of restaurants, gift shops, hotels, and the like. This is based on the assumption that everyone who visits the attractions spends an average of $110.
Also present at the meeting was Joan Koslowsky, treasurer of the Conneaut Lake Area Business Association. Kozlowsky said she can’t get vendors to commit to a lease unless they know in advance if there’s going to be a park.
Dom Baragona runs Mid-America Events, which puts on Ghost Lake each fall. He said the park should be given a pass on these taxes since he claims there’s such a huge economic benefit to the area.
“When you figure 59 million will go away just from Pumpkin Fest and Ghost Lake, to Crawford County, I think the overall big picture speaks for itself.”
Jack Moyers, president of the park’s board of trustees clarified that the 59-million figure does not represent money coming directly into the park.
“It’s economic dollars. It gets spread across the county, due to other commerce — food, fuel, and so forth. I needed to make it clear within that meeting that the 59-million dollars does not come into Conneaut Lake Park, merely a small percentage of that via the lease agreements. I needed to make that clear so that people would understand that. Those are economic figures, not real dollars coming directly to the park.”
Of the three County Commissioners, only Francis Weiderspahn and Sherman Allen were present yesterday. Allen did not comment at all. When asked, Weiderspahn said for now the scheduled tax sale is still on track to happen on September 26th , 2014, if no arrangements are made to pay down the enormous tax debt, which the treasurer told us yesterday now stands at just over 878-thousand dollars.
No vote was taken on the issue since Tuesday’s meeting was just a work session. Weiderspahn indicated that he would be in touch with a Pittsburgh law firm hired at the beginning of the year for the purpose of sorting out the Conneaut Lake Park tax situation.