By Nancy Schaar
In an effort to stop rumors and misinformation regarding Atwood Lake Lodge, commissioners released a timeline from Jan. 22, 2012, when the donation of the lodge property was accepted by county commissioners through this year outlining what is scheduled to occur.
“We did this to try and stop the rumors. Somewhere someone got the idea commissioners want to bulldoze the lodge. I don’t know where this came from. We have never discussed this idea. We have never considered bulldozing the lodge. It’s never come up. It’s not an option. We would never do that,” said Commissioner President Bob Wirkner.
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District closed the lodge in October 2010. At that time, MWCD officials stated they intended to bulldoze the property and use the property for other things. The community responded with an uproar against and plans were announced to donate the property to the county.
“We need to put that issue to rest,” said Commissioner Jeff Ohler.
The timeline includes the following:
Jan. 22, 2012 – MWCD donated the 491.02-acre lodge property to the county.
Feb. 10, 2012 – commissioners signed an oil and gas lease with Sierra Buckeye.
March 21, 2012 – a request for proposals to operate the lodge ended.
July 19, 2012 – commissioners signed a five-year agreement with Radius Hospitality of Canton to operate Atwood Lodge and the golf courses.
Aug. 19, 2013 – Sierra Buckeye notified commissioners they would not be renewing oil and gas leases on the property.
Dec. 12, 2012 -commissioners signed an oil and gas lease for the property with Chesapeake Energy.
March 7, 2016 – commissioners received a lease cancellation from Radius Hospitality.
April 4, 2016 – commissioners issued a request for proposals from real estate companies to market the lodge property to fulfill their plan to sell the property.
April 28, 2016 – deadline for request for proposals.
May 12, 2016 – a real estate company will be chosen to market the lodge property.
May 28, 2016 – will be the last day of business for the lodge operated by Radius Hospitality (previously booked weddings only).
June 2, 2016 – a notice for requests for bids or auction will be presented.
June 30, 2016 – deadline for bids for the lodge property.
July 2, 2016 – auction date for the lodge property.
August 2, 2016 – settlement and closing date for the lodge property sale.
County resident John Davis visited commissioners to discuss the future of the lodge property.
“We need commitment from Carroll County. You need a committee or an advisory board of Carroll County people. There needs to be an effort to try to save it,” said Davis.
Commissioner Tom White asked Davis exactly what he meant by “save it”. Davis replied, “First it needs to have good food.”
Ohler quickly asked, “At a reasonable rate?”
Davis agreed and asked what they charged for a room.
Ohler said they charged $129 and Radius tried to lease rooms to workers for the new power plant but they wanted to stay at hotels in Carrollton to be closer to work.
“We are hemmed in with a five-year lease. We can’t lease the property to anyone or any company for longer than five years. That is state law. But that limits us. What company is going to want to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into a property only to learn in five years that their lease is not going to be renewed? They will be out everything they invested, time and money,” said Wirkner.
Davis said he heard that because the property was taken by eminent domain commissioners can’t sell the property but it reverts back to the original owner.
Ohler said the prosecutor determined the property can be sold but without the mineral rights. Due to a section in the donation agreement between the county and MWCD, if the county sells the property, the mineral rights, including gas and oil rights, will revert back to MWCD.
“Two parcels must remain open ground. They are 143 acres and 14 acres. But that land is included in the golf course area now and that restriction will remain on the deed if we sell the property,” said Ohler.
“Your definition of selling needs to be defined,” said Davis.
“We, as commissioners, as a county, are not in a place to develop the lodge. We are restricted as to what we can do. The 18 hole golf course needs rebuilt but that will cost $8 million. That is not something we can’t spend taxpayers’ money on,” said Commissioner Tom White.
“It boils down to management of our assets. An asset should never become a burden,” said Wirkner.
“I don’t think you three should have the full burden of the decision. An advisory group or a team of advisors should be used,” said Davis.
“We don’t need dreamers. We need someone who has a solid business plan for the lodge and has the financing in place to make it happen,” said Ohler.
“We gave the lodge the best chance for survival. I was willing to take a chance but I will not put general funds in jeopardy. Not one dime of the general fund has been used to maintain the lodge. Everything that has been spent on updates or anything for the lodge came from the oil and gas sign on bonus money. And that was required through the agreement with MWCD. That money could not be spent for anything but lodge improvements,” continued Ohler.
Davis questioned why the lodge was closed when the busiest months were ahead. White said Radius was losing $75,000 a month for the last three months.
“They just couldn’t afford it any longer and neither can we. There are three motels in town. MWCD couldn’t run the lodge. Radius couldn’t run it. How can we?” questioned White.
In an unrelated matter, Ohler said the county budget will “take a hit” due to a local business that overpaid county sales tax.
The business over stated their sales tax and included exempt sales for vehicles that totaled $234,000. Even though commissioners had nothing to do with the over payment, that amount must be paid back to the state by the county.
“We’re going to ask the state auditor to let us pay back $9,500 a month for two years instead of paying the total in one year,” said Ohler.
The county must refund the overpayment of $234,660.18.
The county’s 2015 sales tax collection was down $350,000 from 2014 and the first three months of 2016 are down $253,00 over the same period in 2015.
“Our sales tax income could be down $1 million from 2015 to 2016. This could make a real difference in funds available for 2016. We can weather the storm in 2016. We will be fine in 2017 unless something catastrophic happens,” continued Ohler.
Following an executive session with Kate Offenberger, Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) director, to discuss personnel matters, commissioners approved her decision to place an employee on a five day suspension for five offenses. They include violation of standards for performance of an employee, reported internal information regarding a customer/client of the department, being untruthful to superiors, providing inaccurate information, and deleting emails from the computer system.
Offenberger also reported summer youth program workers are needed. The program is free to employers. DJFS will reimburse the employer for the wages. Workers must be between the ages of 16 to 24 and meet the 200% of local poverty level.
In other business commissioners:
– LEARNED from Economic Development Director Glens Enslen the county’s SR43 water and sewer has been approved for a $2 million grant from the Economic Development Association. The project would provide 45 new jobs for the county.
– HELD a public hearing for Community Development Block Grant funds for 2015. $75,000 is available and only three communities have submitted applications, including Carrollton and Brown and Lee townships. Deadline for applications is April 15.
– LEARNED Carroll County was chosen by the state to participate in Phase 1 of the pilot program for NextGen 911. Other counties are Columbiana, Jefferson, Harrison and Morgan.
– AGREED to secure $2,000 bonds for both the dog warden and the assistant dog warden.
– APPROVED a proclamation for Fair Housing. Fair Housing representative for the county, Chris Modranski, reported 14 complaints were filed in 2015.
– SIGNED a road use maintenance agreement with R.E. Gas Development for a portion of Arrow Road in Brown Township for the Clark Well plugging.
– RECEIVED the March Golden Age Retreat monthly report with six males and 36 females in residence.
– APPOINTED all three commissioners to the Airport Zoning Board of Appeals through March 31, 2017. Bryan Shaw was appointed to the same board through March 31, 2019
– APPROVED the Affirmative Action Plan through March 31, 2017.
– ANNOUNCED commissioners will not meet on Monday, April 18, 2016 due to a lack of a quorum.
– RECEIVED the dog pound report showing eight impounded, three adopted out, three redeemed and one citation for no license.