Your Opinion: Conference center costs, complications revealed

Dear Editor:

Red ink for at least 10 years.

That’s now the official projection for the White Elephant Convention Center that the City Council wants to build with our taxpayer money and subsidies. Now, to calm the taxpayer, they are calling subsidies “stipends.”

Oh and now we find out that the true cost of the center will not be $9 million as previously touted, but $21 million. It seems someone forgot the difference between gross square footage and net square footage. It takes 60,000 total square feet to support 30,000 usable square feet. This is based on $350 construction cost per foot, as per the Johnson study. You could see the crowd do a double take when they heard this from the consultant.

That comes up to 21 million bucks. Just for the convention space. The City Council says they have $9 million to build a convention center costing $21 million. How does that work? With your property tax dollars from general revenue, that’s how.

And they don’t even have the $9 million in their pocket yet, maybe they never will.

The council keeps telling us that out-of-towners pay the 4 percent lodging tax. This is only partially true. When your family has a reunion, wedding or funeral most of the attendees stay in hotels. So really it’s your family who pays the lodging tax, too.

The Johnson study claims 250 events per year will be hosted by the center. This is wildly inaccurate. At best there will be a few events that couldn’t be handled by existing hotel convention space. Most of the time it will be empty, rusting away.

Lets not forget that this town is loaded with unused space for smaller events. Will the existing hotels lose business if this lemon is built?

At the Thursday meeting I attended, the council discussed ways of limiting the topics the public could discuss at any public meeting. I heard this with my own ears. This really shows the council’s disdain for any real public input on the center.

We taxpayers deserve to have a vote on this matter. This is too onerous of an expense to just be handled by our City Council. This anvil will be around our necks for years. Stay tuned.

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