GENEVA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ohio — The Lodge at Geneva-On-The-Lake sits on the southern shore of Lake Erie.
“It’s been an asset to our county and to our community. It's driven tourism tremendously,” Mayor Dwayne Bennett said.
It’s a getaway nestled in the center of Ohio wine country.
“There are dozens of small businesses, including wineries and restaurants and retail shops, that do business because of the visitors,” Melinda Huntley said.
But its future is in limbo as a provision to House Bill 110 could turn it into a state-managed facility by the end of the year.
“With a big state government takeover, we're going to lose all of our local control and then our rates are going to drop, room-rate wise,” Bennett said.
The provision is expected to receive a vote this week.
“It’s too important of a decision to be made lightly or to be decided quickly,” Huntley said.
Under the current lease terms, the lodge would become state property in 2040.
State Senator Sandra O’Brien offered the provision and said allowing the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to manage the lodge would bring relief to Ashtabula County taxpayers.
“Over the last 14 years, the taxpayers of Ashtabula County have spent $34 million on the Geneva-On-The-Lake Lodge and the county taxpayers still owe $13 million,” O’Brien said.
However, village and county officials stand strong in their opposition to the ODNR takeover.
“The actual taxpayer, I don't believe, is going to see any decrease in taxes, so it's a gamble that I don't think is is worth taking,” Bennett said.
Elected officials call the provision a job killer and are openly voicing their concerns about the future and quality of the lodge.
“Our concern is—it's not going to be overnight and we understand that,—but I think over a period of time, over a few years, it's going to start declining,” Bennett said.
The senate aims to vote on the provision Thursday or Friday.
O’Brien said she’s simply looking out for the best interest of her constituents.
“Just make it fair to the citizens of Ashtabula County. They shouldn't have had to pay for this lodge in the first place,” O’Brien said. “It should have been the state's responsibility.”