Conneaut Lake closing in on revitalization project vote

By Jean Shanley

Meadville Tribune
September 10, 2016

CONNEAUT LAKE — Conneaut Lake Borough Council may be prepared to make a decision regarding the proposed revitalization project for downtown Conneaut Lake and Fireman’s Beach next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at its meeting at the town hall.

That seemed to be the consensus of several people at the conclusion this week of a lengthy review of the financial needs for the project, which is expected to cost about $3 million.

At a special work session Wednesday, Bill Eldridge, a member of borough council and chairman of the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee, which has been spearheading the project for the past several years, answered questions from other council members and gave each a packet containing all the financial issues regarding the project.

He urged council to be prepared to make the decisions regarding the project so that it could go out for bid in November and work could begin next year.

After reviewing all the information, Council President Dick Holabaugh expressed concern that the cost could be more than what is projected and wondered if the budget included any funds for contingencies should something happen that was unexpected. He was concerned about any financial shortfall, which could mean a tax increase for borough residents, and recalled being assured that the project could be done without raising taxes locally.

Bob Moss, a retired contractor, businessman and a member of the CLCDC, told Holabaugh that was a good question and said that the projected budget does include funds for contingencies. He also said he has spent a significant amount of time on the project, and based on his years of experience and his talks recently with construction personnel, the project costs seem to be right on target.

The project estimates are $1,806,961 for the Water Street portion and $1,279,550 for improvements at Fireman’s Beach.

State and federal grants have been received totaling $1,473,135 for Water Street and $1,182,550 for Fireman’s Beach. Borough and CLCDC funds have also been pledged to the project.

After reviewing all the figures, Eldridge noted that at this time there is a worst-case scenario of a shortage of $179,810. However, he said, the more likely scenario is that the shortfall would be $134,145.

He explained that the $179,810 includes a $45,665 construction funding deficit. He said if the bids are right on target or below, the shortfall is $134,145.

The $179,810 includes $150,000 for inspection.

However, if the federal Economic Development Administration allows reprogramming of excess funds, the shortfall would be projected at $104,810. The CLCDC has asked the EDA to allow the two projects to be done as one instead of separately. That would allow some savings.

Eldridge said these figures do not include any additional grants that may come from the state.

He said one way to handle the shortfall would be a revitalization project low-percentage loan for only the amount needed. He said beach revenue from dock rentals is expected to increase with the increase of docks and 60 percent of that increase (or $20,000) a year could be used as a loan payment. He suggested using the town hall with a value of $500,000 as collateral for securing the loan.

He emphasized that under this formula, the borough could continue to receive at least as much beach revenue as in the past for non-loan payment purposes.

At the conclusion of the discussion, he said council now must make four decisions: Authorize the change of scope request, approve construction plans, use on-hand funds for construction and authorize a loan application for additional funds.

Eldridge answered other questions from council members. In regard to the beach for next season, he said the proposal would close the beach after Labor Day 2017 and work would be done that fall and the spring of 2018, re-opening in time for the 2018 season.

He encouraged council to take the steps necessary so the project could go out for bid in November, emphasizing that “waiting is not a good option.”

Billy Paris, another council member, asked if Moss thought there were firms interested in doing the work, and Moss said he was sure there are.

Holabaugh said Eldridge had answered a lot of questions other council members had. He encouraged council to study the issue and information and especially noted the beach committee and budget committee should address any concerns they have about design and cost in relation to the borough budget to Eldridge.

Mike Krepps, another council member, said he felt good about Eldridge’s presentation and said Eldridge had answered the questions “as well as he could until we put the rubber to the road.”

Krepps said he believes it’s time to act on the project.

Eldridge said, “We do need to make a decision.” He said he would ask for some kind of resolution because he believes it is important to show the grant-funding agencies “we are moving forward.”