Mixed feelings about extending the lodge time | Local news

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Sentiments are mixed after the Ashtabula County Council of Commissioners voted to extend the deadline for negotiations with the ODNR over the transfer of the Geneva-sur-le-Lac Lodge to the state.

At a meeting Friday afternoon, commissioners approved an agreement extending the deadline for negotiations with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to March 1. Commissioners have been negotiating with the ODNR for months after two state budget provisions ordered the ODNR to enter into a deal with the county to buy the lodge for up to $ 13.95 million.

Friday’s deal requires both sides to make proposals and counter-proposals through their lawyers, requires those lawyers to meet for the first time before the close of business on January 14, and bans each side from ” take legal action until March 1.

Ashtabula County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Stephanie Siegel read a statement from the CVB board at Friday’s meeting.

Siegel said the CVB had no problem with continuing conversations between Ashtabula County and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“The ongoing conversation is good, it’s not a problem with our office,” Siegel said. “We continue, however, to encourage the Commissioners to withdraw from this agreement if they have to relinquish local ownership, and we remain committed to wanting Delaware North to be retained as a management company.”

According to county records, in 2020, outside groups contributed just over $ 1 million towards lodge-related debt payments. The 2021 debt payment was $ 1.3 million.

An economic impact study showed the lodge injects $ 23 million a year into the county’s economy, Siegel said.

“So from my perspective, if it costs the county a few hundred thousand dollars, but their return is $ 23 million, that’s a very good investment,” she said.

Geneva-on-the-Lake Mayor Dwayne Bennett said the lodge is the economic powerhouse for the entire county.

“Playing with that, for me, is just too risky for the payoff,” Bennett said. The amount of money the county pays to cover the debt is the cost of doing business, ”he said.

The profitability of the lodge continues to increase, so the amount the county has to pay will continue to decline, Bennett said.

Bennett criticized the lack of transparency in the process, including holding a meeting on New Years Eve and announcing the meeting just over 24 hours before it took place.

“I just don’t know why there isn’t transparency, I just don’t understand,” Bennett said.

Extending the deadline until March doesn’t leave much time for both sides, he said.

Don Woodward, Genève-sur-le-Lac city councilor and area business owner, said he had a brief sigh of relief at the extended delay.

Woodward said he would still like to see all the things various groups have been asking for for months, including retaining local control, keeping Delaware North as the facility manager and making sure there is funding for. continuous improvements to the facility.

“It probably could have been resolved a little earlier, but [the agreement is] definitely a good sign, ”said Woodward.

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