LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Losing the old Kentucky Kingdom amusement park is costing you in ways you haven't heard about, until now. An exclusive WAVE 3 Troubleshooter investigation has uncovered taxpayers are footing huge bills while the Kentucky State Fair board searches for a new park operator. All, because the Fair board said they have to leave the lights on, and the water running.
Once the jewel of the fairgrounds Kentucky Kingdom's crown has lost it's luster in the eyes of fans like Jack Chal.
"It's a classic old place," Chal said. "It's a shame it's not being used."
Unused but not unplugged. Kentucky taxpayers have spent more than $200,000 to pump electricity into to the amusement park since the coasters stopped rolling back in 2009. Kentucky residents are getting flooded with water bills too. $180,000 worth over that same time period despite the fact business dried up long ago.
"That's just a drain on our taxes," Chal said.
So how did taxpayers end up so far under water? In part, it's because the Kentucky State Fair board has seemed lost at sea finding a new operator. It all started when Six Flag's announced its bankruptcy in 2009. The Fair board took over the property, and the purse strings, a year later. Former CEO Harold Workman said the lights had to stay on even though no one was home.
"We keep it to a minimum, but there are some you have to have on," Workman said.
These construction permits from the Kentucky Airport Zoning Commission required red beacon lights on the four tallest rides because of the park is so close to the airport.
But warning lights aren't the only thing taxpayers are paying to keep on at Kentucky Kingdom. Lights at front gate and lamp posts throughout the park are on, even in the middle of the day.
Workman said those lights are for security. We sent Air 3 up over the park well after dark and found the lights that have been left on are sparse and hardly hardly light up the night. But they're lighting up taxpayers pocketbook to the tune of about $8,700 in LG&E bills every month.
Meanwhile, hundreds of pages of Louisville Water Company bills reveal about $7,800 a month in water bills on average. The fire department required water service to keep the fire suppression system pumping through the deserted park, just in case.
"And yes, there is dollars that have to be spent to do that," Workman said.
Adding to the cost is the fact Kentucky Kingdom's utilities are broken up into 26 different service addresses inside the park. A different meter, surcharge, and fee assigned to each location. Sewer charges, drainage charges, environmental charges. A person who works in the utility industry told me it's pretty common for a large commercial operation like Kentucky Kingdom to be broken up into different service addresses and meters.
Add it all up, and taxpayers are paying an average of $16,600 in utility bills at Kentucky Kingdom every month. That's a total of more than $380,000 since the Fair board took over, all to run an amusement park that isn't running.
The Fair board says finding someone to take over Kentucky Kingdom is a top priority although they've hit so many brick walls trying to find a new operator, the Fair board recently asked state government to take over the search. Until a new operator is found, the people walking through these locked gates will be meter readers.
And the only thing going up: the cost to taxpayers.
The Fair board said keeping the lights and water on is the price taxpayers have to burden to avoid shutting down the amusement park for good.
Tuesday, April 20 2010 11:21 PM EDT2010-04-21 03:21:00 GMT
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725 S. Floyd Street
Louisville, KY 40203