News Column

Vote expected this week on fate of sheriff's sale

July 2, 2014

By Keith Gushard, The Meadville Tribune, Pa.

July 02--MEADVILLE -- Crawford County commissioners anticipate taking a vote at their meeting Thursday on whether to have Conneaut Lake Park go to a sheriff's sale to satisfy hundreds of thousands of dollars in overdue real estate taxes.

If county commissioners vote for a sheriff's sale, they would be the fourth taxing body to support the sale of the amusement park to repay more than $900,000 in back real estate taxes and penalties owed to Conneaut School District, Crawford County and Sadsbury and Summit townships. The overdue taxes date as far back as 1997, according to the Crawford County Treasurer's Office.

The governing boards of Conneaut School District and Summit and Sadsbury townships all went on record at their May meetings in support of a sheriff's sale for Conneaut Lake Park. School and township officials said earlier this week they don't expect to revisit the issue even though the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County came forth with a plan on June 17 to repay the county, school district and two townships within four years.

The EPACC plan would use insurance proceeds and potential property sales as a way to repay the park's taxes. The EPACC, the county's lead economic development agency, was named as the administrator of Conneaut Lake Park on June 17 by the new Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit public corporation that owns the amusement park.

As of July 1, Conneaut Lake Park owes a combined $917,874.87 in back property taxes, interest and penalties to the four entities, according to the Treasurer's Office. The amounts the amusement park owes to each of the four increased from earlier this week because Tuesday was July 1, adding another month's worth of interest and penalties, according to the Treasurer's Office.

Conneaut Lake Park now owes $631,375.56 to Conneaut School District; $230,806.66 to the county (which includes $18,547.97 in costs associated with the tax claim bureau); $43,571.74 to Summit Township; and $12,120.91 to Sadsbury Township, according to the Treasurer's Office.

County commissioners are on record that Conneaut Lake Park would sold for back taxes at the annual tax upset sale on Sept. 26 unless the county received an acceptable plan to repay the overdue taxes. The possibility of a sheriff's sale also remains an option, commissioners said.

At their work session Tuesday, Crawford County commissioners said they anticipate taking a vote on proceeding with a sheriff's sale of Conneaut Lake Park.

"I think we better all stick together," Commissioner C. Sherman Allen said of the previous actions by the townships and school district. "It's not going to be a win-win situation."

Commissioner Chairman Francis Weiderspahn Jr. pointed out the county's approval isn't needed for a sheriff's sale to happen -- as either the school district or the townships or some combination could seek foreclosure action to force a sale.

Weiderspahn said a tax upset sale would sell each parcel within Conneaut Lake Park individually, while a sheriff's sale would sell Conneaut Lake Park as one entity.

Weiderspahn also said he personally has received little public comment in favor of saving Conneaut Lake Park.

"As of last (Monday) night, I've (received) two contacts -- both were in favor of going through with sheriff's sale," Weiderspahn said.

Commissioner Jack Lynch said he favored a sheriff's sale of the park over the tax upset sale.

"It's cleaner," Lynch said of a sheriff's sale.

None of the taxing bodies has filed a complaint in foreclosure on Conneaut Lake Park with the Crawford County Prothonotary's Office, a representative from the office reported on Tuesday. The sheriff's sale process doesn't start until a complaint is filed.

All the defendants named on the foreclosure complaint first would have to be served with foreclosure notification by the Crawford County Sheriff's Office. After the last defendant on the complaint has been served with notification, another 30 days must pass before the entity wanting the sheriff's sale may file a writ of execution requesting a sheriff's sale, according to the Sheriff's Office.

Based on required court filing deadlines, the earliest a sheriff's sale for Conneaut Lake Park could happen would be Oct. 3. Crawford County Sheriff's Office conducts sheriff sales the first Friday of each month.

With a sheriff's sale, all outstanding property taxes as well as municipal liens would have to be repaid, according to the Sheriff's Office.

In addition to the outstanding property taxes, Conneaut Lake Park has a total of more than $2.68 million in liens filed against it, according to preliminary estimates from the Crawford County Prothonotary's Office, which handles civil court procedures.

Liens have been placed on various properties of Conneaut Lake Park by creditors for such things as municipal services as well as utilities, private loans and supplies.


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Source: Meadville Tribune (PA)

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