Starke County Park Board Approves Rent Increase on Bass Lake Beach and Campground

Starke County is raising the rent on the Bass Lake Beach and Campground. The Starke County Park Board voted Tuesday to increase Callahan Development, LLC’s rent payment by eight percent, the maximum allowed by the lease agreement.

Callahan recently exercised an option to renew its lease through April of 2028, but board member Debbie Mix continued to voice concerns with the renewal Tuesday. She felt that Callahan has not been complying with the terms of the lease, when it comes to maintenance.

Mix complained to lessee Richard Callahan that many of the repairs suggested by an independent inspection of the property still haven’t been made. “You have had a year to complete things, and it was not completed,” Mix said. “It’s not an argument with you. It’s just a matter of ‘This is what I’ve seen. This is what I can show hasn’t been done.’ Period.”

“This conversation, that’s two ways,” Callahan replied. “I think that the purpose of this board is to improve the situation at the beach, so the whole county can make money, and we’re not doing that. We’re just tearing down. Every meeting is tearing down. It’s just unbelievable what you’re coming up with.”

“The beach has not been done,” Mix responded. “That campground has been wonderful.”

“The beach is 50 times better than it ever was, ever!” Callahan added.

Assistant Manager Larry Clarich noted that some of the repairs were made, but day-to-day safety concerns have been keeping him busy. Mix acknowledged Clarich’s efforts in improving the beach and campground over the past two years. “He’s doing that in spite of Mr. Callahan,” Mix said. “He is not doing that because of him. And my point of my objection and what I say about the maintenance is because Mr. Callahan did not do it all those years. It is nothing against Larry or Mara. It has to do with Mr. Callahan and his name being on that contract, and that is my concern because I don’t think he gives a darn.”

However, County Attorney Marty Lucas pointed out that those issues are not directly related to the lease renewal. “I don’t think it would matter if it was three years into the lease or it was two weeks into the lease or whatever,” he said. “Those issues are still something that you can raise. But the one thing that comes up now, that only comes up now, is whether you’re going to raise the rent up to eight percent. That only comes up once. That only comes up at renewal. I guess that’s my legal opinion for you. That’s the issue that you really have a decision on.”

But Lucas said it isn’t clear whether the park board may continue to raise the rent every year for the remainder of the lease, or if the board is limited to a one-time increase. Mix abstained from voting on the rent increase.