Wednesday, September 15, 1999

Mason annexes all of Kings Island

$25K in taxes marked for lighting near park

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — The city has taken all of Paramount's Kings Island from Deerfield Township in a move that could make the area around the park a safer place.

        City council ended Deerfield's 27-year ties to the theme park Monday by voting, 6-1, to annex it completely into the city. The move allows Mason to recover about $25,500 in property-tax revenues collected by the township annually.

        Council plans to use the money to pay for street lights on Kings Island Drive — one of the most dangerous intersections in the city.

        “I think this is a wise move on our behalf and one that is long overdue,” Councilman Tom Meunnich said.

        Township officials say the removal of the 665-acre theme park won't have any effect on Deerfield's budget. However, relations between the communities are shakier now than ever.

        “I've got less respect for (council) today than I did yesterday,” said Bill Morand, township trustee. “This is a petty, mean, small-minded thing that they are doing.”

        Said Trustees President Tom Raga: “Actions like this won't lead to that new era of cooperation so many people on both sides are hoping for.”

        Kings Island has long led to friction between Mason and Deerfield. The theme park, named for the Deerfield Township town of Kings Mills, was annexed to Mason in 1997 after an acrimonious court battle.

        Park officials initially supported the annexation proposed in August 1995 but reversed their position when Mason's withdrawal from the township in February 1997 threatened to remove the park from Deerfield completely.

        To accommodate park officials, Mason leaders forged a compromise to allow Deerfield Township to retain a share of more than $25,000 in taxes it collects from Kings Island and keep the park partially in the township.

        “This was a temporary measure on city council's part intended to improve relations between the city and Deerfield Township and was not time-linked,” said City Manager Scott Lahrmer.

        Jeffrey Siebert, a Kings Island spokesman, said park officials preferred to stay neutral.

        “We don't foresee the move having any changes in the way Kings Island does business,” Mr. Siebert said

        However, the theme park's 3.4 million visitors are certain to benefit from the city's investment to improve lighting along Kings Island Drive.

        The road has been the site of numerous traffic accidents over the years, including several fatalities.

        Council authorized a contract with Cinergy for the installation of 34 street lights at a cost of $194,410. The city will pay off the project over eight to 10 years.

        Councilman Jim Fox, who cast the lone dissenting vote, suggested council ask the township to pay for the lighting project with the tax monies and leave the park in Deerfield.


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