Will Indiana Beach, central Indiana’s beloved summer attraction, open next summer, as it has every year for the past 87 seasons?
But some Monticello business owners and former employees of the park — including relatives of Tom Spackman, the late, longtime park owner — aren’t so sure, Associated Press reports.
They tell of layoffs of non-seasonal employees inside the park, utilities shut off for lack of payment, and souring relationships between the park and Monticello-area businesses.
But haven’t we heard all this before?
Across the country, other Morgan RV-owned parks and facilities have been sold or fallen into foreclosure, raising local anxieties even further. To read earlier reports, click here.
“They destroyed, in one year, what the Spackmans developed in 85 years,” said Steve Juntgen, a former park employee and one of Tom Spackman’s sons-in-law.
Hanging in the balance — apart from fond memories and summertime diversions — is an estimated $60 million that Indiana Beach pumps into the Monticello economy each year.
“It’s a hard time for us as a community because we lost (Tom) Spackman this year,” said Janet Dold, executive director of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, referring to Spackman’s death in November at the age of 100.
Despite those rumors, Morgan RV CEO and owner Bob Moser, of Sarasota, New York, said any talk of financial trouble related to Indiana Beach or Morgan RV is false.
Earl Spackman founded Ideal Beach on Lake Shafer in 1926. In 1945, Thomas Spackman, his son, took over. He changed the name to Indiana Beach seven years later, Associated Press reports.
During his tenure, Spackman secured the park’s place as the major funnel of tourist dollars into the Monticello economy.
Spackman announced his intent to sell the park in 2001, said Cathy Juntgen, one of his two daughters and Steve Juntgen’s wife.
“We had maybe three or four other people interested. Unfortunately, we didn’t know Morgan that well — and their situation. Unfortunately, they ended up being the buyers,” Cathy Juntgen said.
“I feel like they’re sacrificing customer service for the almighty dollar,” Cathy Juntgen said. “Especially last year. They had the electricity turned off due to lack of payment. The cable was turned off.”
Part of the concern is fueled by perceived financial troubles with Morgan RV. The company is a division of Morgan Management LLC. An online profile for Moser describes Morgan RV as operating more than $1.5 billion worth of real estate ventures.
In 2011, Morgan operated 42 RV resorts in 14 states and billed itself as the largest privately owned operator of RV parks and resorts in the country, according to an archive of the company’s website.
Flash forward to present day and, after several foreclosures and the selling off of properties, the company counts just five remaining RV resorts in four states among its portfolio — including Indiana Beach.
So what happened to the other parks? Some are easier to account for than others. In recent years:
- 7 Morgan RV resorts entered foreclosure after the company defaulted on a $36 million loan
- 3 Maine resorts were foreclosed in 2013 after Morgan RV defaulted on a $38 million loan
- 13 former Morgan RV resorts were sold to Sun Communities; in all, 16 former Morgan resorts are now owned by Sun
- 12 former Morgan RV properties were auctioned off and acquired by Janus Hotels
In 2012, a Massachusetts judge found that Morgan RV Resorts and employees at Peters Pond RV Resort in Sandwich, Massachusetts, had intimidated resort residents into purchasing inflated memberships of up to $16,000 to remain in the resort. The company was required to pay $200,000 in civil penalties and costs.
Last year, a Wisconsin judge found that Morgan RV-managed Crystal Lake RV Resort in Lodi, Wisconsin, violated Wisconsin environmental laws by mismanaging the resort’s three wastewater treatment lagoons. The company was ordered to pay $90,000 in forfeitures, penalty charges, and attorney fees.
Shortly after that, Indiana Beach was found to have neglected more than $350,000 in self-reported property and innkeeper taxes owed to White County. The park paid the entire outstanding amount in April.
Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.