Today is Thursday, July 20, 2017

POST OPINION -- We’re too close to give up now on the Expo Center

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County leaders have been trying for years to figure out how to fund a Wilson County Expo Center at the James A. Ward Agricultural Center.

Late last year, the county commission passed by slightly more than the two-thirds vote required to send two resolutions to the General Assembly. The first is to grant Wilson County the authority to raise its hotel/motel tax up to 3 percent, while the other would add a $1 per ticket surcharge to all paying events at the Ag Center.

While we believe the $1 per ticket surcharge can become reality once some of the kinks in the language are squared away, the proposed increase in the hotel/motel tax appears to be an impasse, and that is disappointing to us.

We strongly believe that Wilson County needs the Expo Center. The center will provide a shot in the arm to our economy through more jobs and more sales tax dollars, not to mention being a great facility that will serve as a nice amenity for county residents.

Resistance has come from owners of hotels who believe the proposed hotel/motel tax increase of 3 percentage points is too high. State Rep. Mark Pody acknowledged earlier this week in an article published in our newspaper that the 3 percentage point increase “would be a dead issue” if he were to introduce it now.

But Rep. Pody has suggested a compromise where the hotel/motel tax would increase by just 1 percentage point and county commissioners would agree not to ask for another increase in the tax for at least 10 years. This seems like a very reasonable compromise considering the great benefits the center would bring to our county.

In addition, the hotel owners should consider that having such a facility in the county will provide the additional heads in beds that they want as nationwide and state events begin using the Expo Center, such as the National Junior High Rodeo Association’s national finals in 2015 and 2016.

We ask them what other plans – anywhere in the county – are currently this close to being a reality that would put more heads in beds in the very near future? If they know of one, we’d love to hear about it.

We urge our elected officials to come together and agree on a source of funding for the center. We especially thank Rep. Pody who is working hard to come up with a solution that will work for both sides. We hope he will continue to search for a way to break the impasse. And we appreciate Sen. Mae Beavers as well for agreeing to support the two private acts if they first pass the state House.

We urge all local and state elected officials to look at this project as something that is beneficial for all of Wilson County. We ask those who would use it as a territorial issue that continues to divide, instead of unite our county, to please stop.

The bottom line is our county - as a whole - will be much better off with the Expo Center.

While we hope that our local elected officials and state legislators can come up with a solution, we urge them not to give up if they don’t. If there are other ideas that can fund the center without the increase in the hotel/motel tax, we hope to hear them soon.

We are too close to give up now.

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Ag center, editorial, Expo Center, legislature, opinion, Pody
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