WAYNE LAKES – Local business owner John Kennedy is less than satisfied with the decision of Wayne Lakes council members, at their monthly meeting Monday night, to void the council’s contract with Kennedy to reopen Wayne Lakes Beach.
The contract would have allowed Kennedy, owner of Kennedy Vineyard in New Madison, to operate the beach for five years.
The village holds a $2 million liability policy on the beach and other bodies of water throughout the community and required that Kennedy acquire matching coverage in order to meet the requirements of his contract. Kennedy, however, said he was only able to secure quotes for a $1 million policy.
Village representatives, meanwhile, said the equal coverage was necessary to avoid the village being bankrupted in the event of a lawsuit.
“The problem I have with this whole thing is that after we found out there was a problem with the insurance, the mayor was just like, ‘the contract’s void,’” Kennedy said. “There was no ‘Let’s try to figure this out.’ It was ‘You’re done. It’s over.’ I don’t feel there was any compromise at all.”
Kennedy said he consulted seven insurance agencies throughout Ohio and was told in each case that he would only be able to secure a $1 million policy.
“An individual cannot get the amount of coverage they want,” Kennedy said. “So now I don’t know what they plan to do with it.”
Kennedy said allowing a private company to reopen the beach would save the village money. In addition to the money Kennedy spent repairing a damaged water line and pouring new concrete, he said, he also would be able to hire lifeguards as private employees. The village would have to hire public employees, which is a more expensive process.
“They can’t afford to hire lifeguards,” Kennedy said. “They can’t even afford to pay the electric bill. They’re out of money.”
Kennedy said the council might not want the beach reopened because of concerns that it would attract “a bad element” to the community. He thinks, however, that the beach provides a valuable resource for the village’s young people.
“The former mayor,no matter what happened, that beach was open,” Kennedy said. “There was a place for kids to go. Now there’s nothing for them to do but drive around on four-wheelers and look for trouble. I took my kids to that beach all the time. It’s a great place for families.”
Kennedy also thought the council was being remiss in not pursuing quotes from other insurance agencies to verify it was not being overcharged.
“They’re taking advice from their own insurance agent, who’s got a vested interest in taking as much money from the village as possible,” Kennedy said. “They’re not getting a second opinion anywhere.”
Ultimately, he said, it’s the citizens of Wayne Lakes who are hurt most by keeping the beach closed.
“There was a huge meeting the weekend after Labor Day,” Kennedy said. “A huge outpouring of people from the community. It was standing room only. Everybody wanted that beach open.”
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