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Settlement could give park system money



Published: Fri, April 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The county's park system has five facilities in danger of closing.

WARREN -- Trumbull County's cash-strapped metropolitan parks system could see added cash if a financial settlement between commissioners and the shuttered visitors bureau is reached.

Commissioners are moving forward with their plan to create a new convention and visitors bureau. On Wednesday, they set up a new fund for depositing tax funds for its operation, and they are preparing to appoint a new bureau board.

The lodging tax in Trumbull County is 4 percent on people staying at hotels and motels. Two percent of that tax goes to the Western Reserve Port Authority.

The previous visitors bureau, which shut down March 31 after exhausting its cash reserves, has no standing to claim future county lodging tax money, the commissioners maintain.

Lawsuit

Trumbull County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau, however, has filed a lawsuit against commissioners, seeking county lodging tax dollars. Commissioners say the amount they've held back is $159,843; the bureau says it is more.

Jason Earnhart, assistant prosecutor, represented the commissioners during a Wednesday pretrial hearing before visiting Judge Thomas P. Curran of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.

Past lodging tax dollars collected for the old bureau are still at issue; another hearing is scheduled for June 10.

During the hearing, Earnhart said it's still possible commissioners would provide the $159,843 to the former bureau's board.

If so approved by the parties, this money would be used for the immediate promotion of upcoming events and tournaments, and expenses associated with the office's closing. Some summer events have asked for the bureau's assistance.

Any money left over would go to the Trumbull County MetroParks Board, where it can benefit all of the county, Earnhart explained.

The judge spoke favorably about reaching a settlement, Earnhart said. Commissioners and the old bureau's board would have to negotiate the matter, which would then go to the court for approval.

Drastic cuts

The parks board has said its five facilities will see drastic project and maintenance cuts this year and could shut down at some point because the MetroParks budget allocation from the county's general fund this year is zero.

The five facilities are Canoe City MetroPark in Leavittsburg; Clarence Darrow MetroPark and Disc Golf Course in Champion; Foster MetroPark in Newton Township; and the Western Reserve Greenway Trail in Champion, Bristol and Bloomfield townships. The board recently acquired but has not opened the Mosquito Creek Nature preserve, about 100 acres of wooded wetlands along the creek in Bazetta Township.




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