County says: Sprinklers only for Maui Sands if bills not paid

PERKINS TWP. Erie County officials have decided not to leave Maui Sands high and dry.
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Erie County officials have decided not to leave Maui Sands high and dry.

While the county is still threatening to cut off water service to the failed indoor waterpark, the threat applies to domestic water service supplying toilets and water fountains.

The county will still supply water for the property's sprinklers that would kick in if the building caught fire, said Gary Lickfelt, legal counsel for the Erie County commissioners.

Maui Sand's past-due bill for water and sewer service shrank to about $23,000 after the property holder, Thomas Pratt, paid a $9,383.52 bill for current water service.

The county is still owed about $83,000 -- unpaid property taxes of about $59,336 and two water bills, a $13,412.96 bill due Oct. 17, and a $10,005.25 bill due Nov. 17.

In his latest "turn off notice" letter sent to Pratt, county sanitary engineer Jack Meyers gave Pratt until Jan. 28 to pay the remaining water bills or face the water shut off.

The Perkins Fire Department asked the county to keep the sprinkler system operating and, in the interest of public safety, the county has agreed to do so.

The Jan. 28 date gives county commissioner Tom Ferrell time to return after a medical absence, joining Bill Monaghan and new commissioner Pat Shenigo.

Pratt did not return calls placed to his office early this week.

A court order on Dec. 3 named Pratt as the property holder (or receiver) on behalf of Charter One, the bank that financed Maui Sands.

Pratt and the bank are trying to preserve the property to maintain the building's value, Lickfelt said.

"The best case scenario is someone will come along and try to revive Maui Sands by purchasing it," he said.

If Pratt does not pay the remaining water bills, the county has one more collection tool available to it -- unpaid water bills could be added to the land's property taxes.

Property taxes wind up being paid 99 percent of the time, Lickfelt said, explaining that when land is sold, unpaid property taxes must be paid.

It's not a surprise that Perkins Township wants to keep the fire suppression system at Maui Sands running, said John Hoty, president of Hoty Enterprises.

Hoty said the fire department asked his company to keep the sprinkler system going at the Chi Chi's restaurant when it closed, even though Hoty Enterprises planned to tear down the building. Turning off the sprinklers would have posed a hazard, because a fire would have threatened the property's neighbors.