Development committee no longer involved with revitalization effort

Meadville Tribune
Jean Shanley

July 21, 2021

CONNEAUT LAKE — Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee, which has spearheaded a $4 million revitalization project in downtown Conneaut Lake, no longer will be working on such efforts in the borough.

Bill Eldridge, president of the committee and a member of Conneaut Lake Borough Council, read a release at Wednesday’s council meeting regarding the group’s decision to focus on other projects.

According to the release, the committee has completed its currently planned borough municipal infrastructure upgrades including Fireman’s Beach, Memorial Park and Water Street. “Performance of administration for the final Water Street upgrades is being relinquished to exclusive municipal management,” it read, “fulfilling the purpose of the CLCDC to improve the appearance of the town.”

The move provides the committee with resources and time to better serve its mission to “revitalize the appearance, economic activity and businesses, and to develop the community’s unique identity consistent with its history and the location on the lake,” Eldridge read.

Asked by council member Mike Krepps if the committee felt it had been forced out of the revitalization efforts, Eldridge responded that it did.

He referred to action taken at the October 2020 meeting during which council gave the committee a vote of confidence after members were asked directly if they wanted the committee to continue working on council’s behalf on the revitalization.

However, in February 2021, council rescinded the motion to give the committee full authority to manage the revitalization efforts. The change was made without discussion at the meeting.

After Eldridge read the statement about the committee’s decision to turn revitalization efforts back over to council, no one on council said anything about the statement except Krepps.

Krepps praised the committee for all its work and asked, “Who’s going to pick up the ball?”

The $4 million projects have included upgrades to Fireman’s Beach, Memorial Park, and Water Street from First to Third streets. The work on upgrades on Water Street from Third to Fourth streets remains to be done.

The projects have been mostly paid for through numerous grants written by Eldridge, who has been the liaison between the committee, council and the contractors for the projects.

Contacted by the Tribune, Bob Moss, one of the co-founders of the committee, said he was very proud of the work the group has done, and he is looking forward to the borough completing the Water Street revitalization and the traffic lights.

He said the borough should be able to complete the work the committee has started.

The February decision by council to pull the sole authority to manage the project from the committee was “a significant disappointment” to him, he said, adding he was upset with “the citizens of Conneaut Lake that are acting like children in public reprimands of people trying to do and have done a great job here.”

Moss said he was disappointed that the overhead traffic lights (with the wires across the street) have not been removed, but knows that is coming with the recent Green Light Go grant the borough received for that project.

Eldridge noted the committee will now concentrate on community projects such as the Ice House Festival and the Barbara J paddleboat.

“We are honored to have energized people in our community to imagine possibilities and create a master plan that attracted generous donor investments and government grants of over $4 million in financial support for borough improvements,” Eldridge said in the news release. He continued that further investments are already heading to Conneaut Lake, referring to the $220,000 Green Light Go traffic signal grant. In addition, the committee accomplished documenting and justifying infrastructure needs to be included in the pending Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Route 6/Water Street 2004 proposals.

He noted the committee is pleased to have achieved the renovations, which attracted visitors and improved the borough’s annual financial operations. “The borough has similarly benefited from CLCDC efforts that promoted the gifting of a new town hall and the development of the Evans Square senior residence complex,” he said.

Moss told the Tribune he is glad the committee will continue working on such projects as extending the Ernst Trail from Vernon Township to Conneaut Lake.

Eldridge also reported on the $220,000 Green Light Go grant received for traffic lights. He said it will require local match of $55,000, but no action was taken on how the local match would be paid.

Asked later if he would write grant applications for the borough, Eldridge said, “I don’t know. As we can see, this council is unpredictable.”