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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Hart Slams Fischer Over Rerouted Funds (AUDIO)

Louisville businessman Ed Hart continues to speak out against Mayor Greg Fischer, accusing him of misleading donors and withholding funds that should be intended for charity.

Hart has submitted paperwork with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance as evidence in a complaint filed by Metro Council candidate Curtis Morrison. The case alleges Fischer violated state campaign finance law and solicited funds for his inaugural celebration, but instead used them to pay down his personal campaign debt while in office.

Hart says Fischer deceived contributors about how inaugural funds were spent and has ignored numerous requests to send the money to charity.

“Why would any politician want to accept donations from people who are saying, ‘wait a second, it was never our intention to give you those donations.’ And then the bottom line is Greg Fischer is a wealthy man. Any surplus donations to the inauguration would go to a charity. Why Greg Fischer would want to keep that money and deny it from going to a local charity totally befuddles me,” he says.

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Local News Noise & Notes Politics

Alleging Fischer Misled Donors, Local Businessman Joins KREF Complaint

Louisville businessman Ed Hart says Mayor Greg Fischer misled donors about how their contributions to his inauguration were spent, according to documents filed with the Kentucky Registry of Election.

The paperwork was submitted to the state agency a month after an initial complaint was filed by Metro Council candidate Curtis Morrison. The case alleges Fischer pulled a “bait and switch” by soliciting funds for last year’s mayoral inauguration, then using them to help retire his personal campaign debt.

Attorney Jennifer Moore, who is representing Fischer, said in a response to Morrison’s complaint that all of the checks were deposited and reported properly. Moore points out that Hart and others made their checks payable to “Greg Fischer for Mayor” and not the inaugural celebration.

In a letter to the mayor and KREF officials, however, Hart wrote he was told to do that by the mayor’s campaign staff and is disappointed Fischer is misleading the public.

“Rather than admitting our contributions were used for the wrong purpose—whether unintentionally or not—you have instead mounted a spurious defense to a complaint on this matter,” he says. “Essentially, your defense consists of accusing me and the seven other individuals in our group of donors of not telling the truth.”

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New Suitors Sought To Restart Kentucky Kingdom

The Kentucky Kingdom amusement park has spent a second straight summer behind locked gates, as the state fair board seeks a new operator.

Board officials say they’re committed to getting the park back up and running.

It appears the park will stay closed for a third summer, with officials most likely looking toward a 2013 reopening.

Kentucky Kingdom has been shut down since early last year, when its previous operator, Six Flags, declared bankruptcy.

State Fair Board spokeswoman Amanda Storment says the property and remaining rides are being maintained in the meantime.

“The grounds staff of the Kentucky Exposition Center continues the upkeep of the Kentucky Kingdom property, which includes our horticulture personnel, who maintain the physical grounds The operations staff, which includes plumbers and electricians, are now in the process of winterizing the park, and the property itself continues to be a part of our regular maintenance schedule,” she said.

The fair board and developer Ed Hart negotiated for months toward a deal that would have Hart’s company run the park, but the talks fell through late last month.

Fair Board President Harold Workman has said there are other firms interested in operating the park.

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Local News Next Louisville

Lawmaker Optimistic About Kentucky Kingdom Reopening

A Kentucky lawmaker whose district includes the shuttered Kentucky Kingdom amusement park says he’s optimistic the state fair board will find an operator for the facility.

State Representative Jim Wayne says he was surprised to hear that negotiations with developer Ed Hart to reopen the park fell through last week.

Fair board president Harold Workman says the board was unable to come to an agreement with Hart on where certain revenue streams would be steered.

He says there are other companies that are interested in operating the park.

Rep.Wayne says lawmakers are willing to listen to any sound proposals seeking financial help in getting Kentucky Kingdom back up and running.

“We always have to look at these things as actual business proposals. So when someone like the people who might want to reopen Kentucky Kingdom come to Frankfort, they have to have a real solid business plan that shows they’re going to be profitable over a certain number of years,” Wayne told WFPL.

Ed Hart wanted the General Assembly to issue $20 million in bonds to help re-open the park in 2013. Hart had secured nearly $30 million in private funds.

Kentucky Kingdom has been closed since early last year, when its previous operator, Six Flags, filed for bankruptcy protection.

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Talks End Between Fair Board and Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company

The plan to expand, refurbish and re-open Kentucky Kingdom has hit another snag.

Talks have broken down between the state Fair Board and businessman Ed Hart’s Kentucky Kingdom Redevelopment Company.

Fair Board president Harold Workman says the two sides couldn’t agree on where certain revenue streams should be steered, but declined to elaborate. The board will now look for other operators.

“Obviously the news is out about the plight of the kingdom and I’m sure companies will know that we are getting ready to seek operators,” says Workman, who doesn’t believe it will be difficult to find another partner.

“There are operators that are out there. We had inquiries before from five or six companies, so we would anticipate there might be some interest from those,” he says.

Hart previously owned the park and had hoped to use a combination of city, state and private dollars to double the park’s size and re-open it two phases beginning in 2013.

“We just received a copy of the statement provided to the media from Mr. Harold Workman of the Kentucky State Fair Board,” says the KKRC in a statement released this afternoon. “This is the first contact we have had with Mr. Workman since  Ed Hart  presented to a meeting of the Fair Board last week. Apparently, the Kentucky State Fair Board has decided not to pursue an agreement with Mr. Hart and his company.”

Hart and the Fair Board had been in talks since shortly after Six Flags gave up its lease on the park in February of last year. Workman says he believes 2013 is still a realistic goal for re-opening the park.

A spokesman for the mayor says it’s in the city’s best interest for the park to re-open, but Metro Government has not been at the table in recent talks.

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Hart: Kentucky Kingdom Can’t Reopen In 2012

Louisville developer Ed Hart says there’s no way the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park can be reopened next year, but he’s willing to extend his interim agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board and aim for a 2013 reopening.

Hart says without a public/private funding partnership and a long-term lease in place, suppliers won’t be able to fill orders get the park’s rides up and running for 2012.

“The reality has finally struck that the deadline dates are reached. We can’t do anything about that, and reluctantly and sadly we have to say we can’t open the park in 2012, principally because we never really forged the public/private partnership we hoped to forge,” Hart told WFPL today.

Hart says he has secured $29 million in private funding to reopen Kentucky Kingdom but wants the Kentucky General Assembly to approve a $20 million bond issue to help restore it to a regional attraction.

He wants to extend his interim agreement to develop the property to give the 2012 General Assembly time to consider his funding request. If approved, the park would reopen in 2013.

Fair board president Harold Workman says the board will consider Hart’s offer.

Kentucky Kingdom was shut down early last year after its previous operator, Six Flags, filed for bankruptcy.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Hart: Time Running Out For 2012 Kentucky Kingdom Reopening

The man who wants to reopen the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park says he’s close to securing nearly $29 million in private funding for the effort, but time is running out for state and local governments to finalize
their commitment.

Kentucky Kingdom was shut down early last year after its previous operator, Six Flags, declared bankruptcy.

Ed Hart says he needs a total of $50 million to fully redevelop and reopen the park, but without some $20 million in public funding and a lease agreement, he can’t put in an order for parts to get rides up and running.

“If our production time is pre-empted because we haven’t place our orders, all bets are off for 2012. that’s not the case now. If we things wrapped up now we can open in 2012, he said.

Hart has an interim agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board to operate the park. It expires at the end of this month. 

He says he’s hopeful that lawmakers will approve a bond issue to help fund the re-opening.

Fair board officials were not immediately available for comment.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Talks Continue On Kentucky Kingdom Reopening Plan

Louisville Metro Government officials say they remain hopeful that the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park will re-open next spring.

A financing plan proposed by Mayor Greg Fischer in May to reopen the park would include more than $17 million in city-issued bonds, but Fischer’s chief financial officer tells the Courier-Journal that developer Ed Hart may try to pursue state tourism tax credits for the project. That would reduce the city’s share of
the debt.

Hart has declined to comment on the negotiations. The Kentucky State Fair Board has granted Hart’s group the rights to try to get the park back up and running.

Mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter says all parties are working toward the goal of a 2012 re-opening.

“That’s what we’ve been talking with the fair board about and mr. hart. He’s been talking to others and the fair board has been talking to others. We’re very hopeful that we’re close to a deal but we’re not quite there yet,” he said.

Kentucky Kingdom has been shut down since early 2010, when its previous operator, Six Flags, declared bankruptcy.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Proposal Would Reopen Kentucky Kingdom In 2012

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has unveiled a plan under which the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park would reopen in 2012.

It calls for the city to issue 17-and-a-half million dollars in bonds, and would bring in a third-party investor. The bonds would be backed by parking revenues, occupational taxes, and the new partner.

Louisville businessman Ed Hart has an agreement with the Kentucky State Fair Board that would allow him to redevelop the park.

As Hart previously proposed, he would initially put up $7 million to reopen the park and more later for expansion.

City officials presented it today to Hart’s company and Fair Board President Harold Workman, who are studying it.

Fischer says it would be a safe investment by the city.

“I treat these deals as if it was my own money. So I would enter a deal like this personally. If we can’t meet that threshold with any investment that we make as a city, we shouldn’t do it,” he said.

The bond issue would be subject to Metro Council approval.

Budget Committee Vice-Chair Kelly Downard says he thinks the proposal “looks good.”

Details of the plan are below:

LOUISVILLE (May 4, 2011) – Mayor Greg Fischer today unveiled a plan that would reopen Kentucky Kingdom by issuing $17.5 million in city bonds backed by parking fees, a third-party investor and taxes collected from the jobs created at the amusement park.

The plan, presented this morning to Kentucky Kingdom investor Ed Hart and Kentucky State Fair Board President Harold Workman, would allow the park to open in 2012.

“It’s always been my goal to reopen Kentucky Kingdom because it’s a valuable tourist attraction and it will create jobs, but it needs to be a deal that is good for the city,” Fischer said.

The latest proposal involves much less risk to taxpayers than previous deals proposed by Hart, Fischer said, while at the same time providing an opportunity to re-open the park.

“The deal we have presented is fair to the city, to taxpayers and to Mr. Hart,” Fischer said.

The plan calls for the city to issue $17.5 million in general obligation bonds, pending Metro Council approval, with an annual debt payment of $1.5 million over 20 years.

The city would commit its portion of the occupational tax revenues collected at Kentucky Kingdom toward the bond payment, up to $1 million, and the park’s operators would commit parking fees generated by the park toward any difference between the taxes collected and the $1 million.

If the park generated $200,000 in occupational taxes its first year, for example, Kentucky Kingdom would contribute $800,000 from parking fees to close the gap.

The remaining $500,000 of the $1.5 million annual installment would be paid by a third-party investor with a financial interest in Kentucky Kingdom, said Steve Rowland, the city’s chief financial officer, who structured the deal with Fischer and a team of financial advisors.

“We have had discussions with several people and believe there are interested potential partners who want to see Kentucky Kingdom open and operating,” Rowland said.

The new deal also includes a provision that allows the city to share in profits if Kentucky Kingdom is ever sold. Metro Government would receive 30 percent of the net profits of any sale.

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Local News Next Louisville Politics

Talks Continue On Kentucky Kingdom Reopening

Louisville businessman Ed Hart and the Kentucky State Fair Board have extended their interim agreement to negotiate a lease under which Hart would redevelop the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park.   

The park has been shuttered since its previous owner, Six Flags, declared bankruptcy in early 2010.

Hart’s agreement was due to expire at the end of this month, but has been extended through September.

Hart has previously asked state and local governments to issue bonds totaling $50 million to finance the redevelopment.