MEADVILLE, Pa. – Crawford County officials have authorized a sheriff’s sale of the historic 122-year-old Conneaut Lake Park in northwestern Pennsylvania, but park trustees may file for bankruptcy to hold off the sale.
County commissioners voted Thursday to authorize the sale of the amusement park.
But Mark Turner, executive director of the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County, says park trustees will consider filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to stop the sale and freeze assets.
“I think that bankruptcy could be overwhelmingly positive, especially in freezing park debt and putting existing debt, including unsecured claims and expired judgments, through the wringer, subject to determination of the bankruptcy court,” Mr. Turner said.
He said the redevelopment agency could then proceed with plans to revitalize and expand the park. The redevelopment group has proposed turning the park into a year-round resort complete with new exposition and arts centers at an estimated cost of up to $15 million and repaying the more than $910,000 in back taxes the park owes. Money to pay off the debt would come from insurance settlements and proceeds from sales of park property, he noted.
County attorneys, however, say settlements could be tied up in court indefinitely and property sales might not cover the tax debt.
Pittsburgh attorney Ira Weiss, hired by commissioners to study the redevelopment plan, said the redevelopment group has experience in reclaiming and marketing former brownfield sites but not in revamping an amusement park, especially at such cost.
“The county has no reasonable expectation of getting its tax money under this plan,” he said in joining the county solicitor in recommending rejection of the proposal.
State officials also say insurance was inadequate when fires burned the park’s Dreamland Ballroom in 2008 and its Beach Club a year ago.
In June, the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas approved a settlement plan between state Attorney General Kathleen Kane and the trustees of Conneaut Lake Park that dismissed the current trustees and introduced a new governing board, which has entered into a management agreement with the Economic Progress Alliance to save the park.
The sheriff’s sale is scheduled for next month.