Lake leaders “paving way” for whole-town upgrade

The Meadville Tribune
By Jean Shanley
Saturday, August 11, 2012

CONNEAUT LAKE — Conneaut Lake Borough Council took two steps this week that were designed to assist the Conneaut Lake Community Development Committee in raising funds for a revitalization project in downtown Conneaut Lake.

The first was approval of the CLCDC to obtain a 501(c)(3) designation classifying it as a non-profit organization for which donated funds could be used as tax deductions.  Ed Yates, chairman of CLCDC, said he had been told that many large corporations would be willing to donate sizable amounts of funding, but only to 501(c)(3) organizations.

The request was met with unanimous approval.  The next step for CLCDC will be to incorporate and register as a 501(c)(3) organization.

The second step council made to help with the funding of the project was to approve, in principle, seeking a loan of up to $150,000 as a show of support for the project.  It was emphasized that this would be based on the borough’s being able to seek a loan legally.  Research will be done to determine if this is possible.

Bill Eldridge, a member of council and of the CLCDC Committee, said John Grossman of E.G. & G., the architectural firm heading the project, had informed him that many agencies which approve grants do so much more willingly if there is a show of support from the governing agency involved.  Eldridge emphasized the importance of the approval of the loan, adding that such an approval would show any grant agency that it was a serious proposal, not just a “fishing expedition.”

Dick Holabaugh, president of council, voiced his concern that the request was coming “at the 11th hour” and council had not been told of this before.

Eldridge said this is not unusual, and it was “not a secret” that many agencies want this type of support, but Holabaugh still was concerned about whether the borough could receive the funding.  Eldridge said that some grants required matching funds to be raised if the grant is to be awarded.

It was emphasized that a loan application would not be made until the completion of the project, and the motion indicated that council would seek to take out the loan—but it was not guaranteed amount, depending on whether the loan could be obtained.

Eldridge emphasized that the amount would be no more than $150,000 (about 2 ½ percent of the total project) and would be paid over a long period of time—with payments to be made from increased revenues at Fireman’s Beach when the project is completed.  He estimated this would be a payment of about $11,000 annually and the increase in revenues should support that.

He also emphasized that no tax monies are to be used for the loan.

Holabaugh also voiced the hope that if a loan is secured that it would be through local banks which support the area, not an out-of-county bank.  Some of the banks in the area already had made donations for the seed money for the project.

The beach project is to begin in 2014 (grants are being sought now) and the loan application would not be made until 2015, Eldridge said.

Council members expressed support for seeking the loan, noting that if council did not do so, it would appear it did not support the project.

Dwight Stallard, a council member, said, “The doors are open; we better walk though.”

Council members agreed on the idea of securing a loan, if it is legal.

At the conclusion of the vote, Yates, who was in the audience, said, Thank you.  You did the right thing.  John Grossman will lead us through this any way we need led.”

The beach project is part of the CLCDC Revitalization of downtown Conneaut Lake, which plans to do major upgrades to Fireman’s Beach as well as a streetscape program, which would put utility wires underground, fix up the sidewalks and do other upgrades to downtown, with the goal of attracting more business and visitors.