LETTER: “Too big to fail” with tax payers on the hook

As long as there is a Republican majority in Harrisburg, don’t expect a casino in downtown Lancaster (which is surrounded by one of the most ultra-conservative counties in all of North America). If the governor and state legislature are willing to balance the state budget by depriving our children and grandchildren of desperately-needed funding for education, why would they do ANYTHING to bail out a project which has a proven record of losing massive amounts of taxpayer dollars?

The downtown Lancaster hotel and convention center are indeed “too big to fail”, with nearly $50 million taxpayer dollars committed to the “private” hotel and well over $100 million already spent on the convention center (not counting unfunded municipal costs for both). All three current Lancaster County Commissioners have promised to not raise the “hotel tax” under any conditions, but the sad truth is that at some point they may have no alternative. I am convinced that rather than allowing the “integrated facility” to close, they will raise taxes.

There is yet another factor: the Penn Square Partners keep the financial performance of their “private” hotel a closely-guarded secret, in spite of the fact that Lancaster City owns the building they occupy, and taxpayers own all of the meeting rooms the hotel receives revenue from, the hotel kitchen, half of the hotel lobby, the facade of the Watt and Shand building, the surrounding sidewalks, and even the bridge connecting the hotel lobby to the parking garage.

The problem is, if the hotel does not meet its earnings expectations, the Penn Square Partners would most likely make additional demands on Lancaster City taxpayers, who own the hotel building and (thanks to former mayor Charlie Smithgall) guarantee the hotel’s financing. Under the threat of closing the Marriott Hotel, the mayor and city council would have little recourse other than to cave in to whatever demands are made by the Penn Square Partners.

Updated: January 9, 2012 — 10:36 am


  1. So……..the next time PSP needs another ‘bailout’……..there should be a TAXPAYER REFERENDUM alomg with a FULL ACCOUNTING of PSP profit/loss to authenticate a ‘need’. The TAXPAYERS own the building, the meeting rooms, the kitchen, one of the lobby, the sidewalks, the facade and the connecting bridge. The TAXPAYERS are driving the Bus, and PSP are going along for the ride. WE need to TAKE BACK CONTROL!!!!!!!!!!!

    My guess is a TAXPAYER REFERENDUM, rather than the mayor, the city council or some hand-picked special-interest voting block would have a DECIDEDLY different outcome.

  2. I dont think the party in power has anything to do with a casino in the CC…by the way the only thing that will ever make that building run at break-even or better. The issue is, and has always been, local taxation.

    The beauty of the CC to those who benefit from it, primarily Dale High, and the politicians that they (he) own is that they get rich off of taxpayer money NOT paid by the constituents of said bought and paid for politicians.

    Local residents were told they were getting this for free…out of town (visitor) taxpayer dollars and state money and as a result, most people were willing to stick their heads int he sand.

    The problem is that the well is already running dry and we havent been open for more than 3 years. Give it another 3 and the hotel tax will max out and the county will be forced to pay. When that day comes, and the County is either raising taxes or raiding other programs to keep the lights on in the Charlie/Gib/Paul/Mike dedicating palace to Dale, the people of Lancaster County will welcome the slots as that is the one, and the only one, way out of the biggest mistake ever made in Lancaster County.

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