Conneaut Lake accepts donation for town hall/community center

The Meadville Tribune
By Jean Shanley
Thursday November 20, 2014

CONNEAUT LAKE  ̶  Conneaut Lake will soon have a new town hall/community center.
Conneaut Lake Borough Council on Wednesday night approved accepting the donation of the former High Street Community Church from Conneaut Lake residents Ron and Gayle Anderson.

The vote was 4-1 with Council President Dick Holabaugh, Penny Monihan, Billy Paris and Bill Eldridge voting to accept the donation and Mike Krepps casting the dissenting vote.  Council members John Chuey and Dwight Stallard were out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

The date to have the property turned over ̶  will be determined at council’s Dec. 10 meeting.  Council expects the property to change hands before the end of the year.

The question of paying the expenses of operating the facility is still on some council members’ minds.

Holabaugh said council wanted to be sure it could pay operational expenses so it would not have to increase taxes to borough property owners to operate the facility.

He also questioned Jeff Millin, borough attorney, on what recourse council would have if it finds after a few years it cannot afford the building.  Millin reminded council of the agreements to the proposed deed transfer that has several options for council to dispose of the building if it were economically not able to operate it.

Holabaugh said all the council members crunched numbers in what it would cost to operate the town hall, and each of them had different figures.

He said because the building has been renovated and will be used in a different capacity than previously, it is difficult to know how much it will cost to operate it.

Holabaugh said council wanted to be 100 percent positive it would have some recourse to dispose of the building if it cost too much to operate.  He said council has to be totally responsible to borough taxpayers.

“I’m willing to give it a try as long as it can pay for itself,” Holabaugh said.  He said it is not designed to be a profit maker, but it should pay for itself.

Eldridge announced it already has an application for the rent of two of the five downstairs offices to house state Republican Rep.-elect Parke Wentling of the 17th District and his staff.

Council approved that request and final details will be determined by council as it compiles policies and the details of the lease by the Dec. 10 meeting.

Eldridge said the borough’s building inspector wants a stained glass window boarded and also the sign outside the building raised before anyone moves into the town hall.  Those issues are to be addressed by Anderson.

The borough will occupy one of the other three offices and the municipal authority may rent one.  Both the borough office and municipal authority have office space in another building in town now and that landlord would have to be notified.  The municipal authority will decide if it will move into the new town hall at its December meeting.

The decision to accept the donation of the building had been postponed after last week’s meeting, which was recessed until Wednesday when council members expressed the need for more time to study the legalities and financial aspects of accepting the donation.

Krepps said it was that action that resulted in his dissenting vote.  He felt all his questions had not been answered and was concerned about the lack of transparency before the meeting.

Eldridge, who has been the liaison working with Anderson, said he was pleased with the decision by council to accept the building.  He was thankful council took the time to make the decision quickly.

“I think it’s going to be a great facility for the citizens of Conneaut Lake,” Eldridge said.

Two members of the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee commended council for its decision.

Ed Yates of the CLCDC said the town hall and Ice House Park are anchors for the multi-million dollar redevelopment work being planned by the CLCDC in its revitalization program.  Chad Waldschmidt of the CLCDC suggested council deserved a round of applause, which the audience of about 15  ̶  mostly CLCDC members  ̶  gave council in appreciation for its decision.

Anderson purchased the building from the church in November of 2013.  The church had built a new church building on Route 322 and had not used the former facility for a few years.  After Anderson purchased the building, extensive remodeling of the building was done and paid for by Anderson.  He then chose to donate it to the borough for a new community building and town hall.

The upstairs was renovated to allow the room to be rented with space to accommodate 125 people.  The bottom has five offices.  Both levels also have kitchen facilities as well.