Conneaut Lake’s $3M revitalization plan OK’d, work scheduled

Revitalization plan could start in February

By Jane Smith
Meadville Tribune
September 17, 2016

CONNEAUT LAKE — Borough Council made a “very significant decision” at its most recent meeting as it voted to proceed with a $3 million revitalization plan for the borough. Councilman Bill Eldridge characterized the vote in that fashion following the meeting.

Council agreed to move forward with plans for the project, which includes improvements to the Water Street area as well as Fireman’s Beach.

In addition to approving recommendations from the budget committee for improvements to Fireman’s Beach, council also approved a new construction schedule for the beach, as proposed by Bob Moss, a member of Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee, which is spearheading the revitalization project.

The new schedule calls for construction work at the beach to begin in February as opposed to fall. Eldridge told council that after the last work session a detailed look at the construction work schedule by Moss found that construction work can start the winter of 2017. He said the idea is that more contractors may bid on a project with a spring construction season.

At the same time, he stressed work would be halted by May 19 to allow the public access to the beach during the summer.

“We think it would be a better plan,” Eldridge said.

If all the work is not completed by May 19, it would be halted and completed after the end of the summer season.

Council President Dick Holabaugh said as long as council communicates with dock renters about the issue, he agrees with the new schedule.

The vote to proceed included work on Water Street improvements. Holabaugh abstained from voting — based on legal advice — because he stands to gain financially when improvements to Water Street are made. Holabaugh owns property on Water Street and the improvements will enhance his property value. Thus, he would have a conflict of interest.

All other council members unanimously agreed to move forward.

The next step was approval for financing some of the local funds. Council agreed to use monies from various accounts to begin the work, such as fees for preparing bid documents and other preliminary work.

Council had hoped to open a line of credit account for up to $200,000 but was advised by attorney Jeff Millin that the municipal code does not permit that. Upon his recommendation, council voted to hire an assistant solicitor who is an expert in municipal law and assist with what council can do legally for borrowing.

The state code dictates how much a borough can borrow for specific projects, and Millin said the expert can lead council through that process. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development would approve the borrowing. Council approved a resolution to hire the assistant solicitor and to borrow up to $200,000 for the Fireman’s Beach project.

Council also approved sending a letter to the state asking for authorization to combine the beach project and the Water Street project into one for grant purposes.

Answering a question posed by an audience member about the changes, Eldridge noted the initial project was estimated at $6.5 million. However, state funding has not been available as expected, so the project has been scaled back to meet the funding available.

Another member asked whether the sidewalks on Second Street were still included in the project. They are not.