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Your Opinion: Question leaders about conference center

Your Opinion: Question leaders about conference center

February 10th, 2013 by Charles Gaskin, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

Keeping it simple, you and your spouse clear $70,000 annually after taxes are considered. You have 10 children; however, the 19-year-old has an extravagant, ill-responsible lifestyle. Unknown to you, he purchased a $467,000 Italian sports car with a history of poor reliability, obligating you the financial responsibility to pay for it.

This is exactly what our City Council is about to do regarding the proposed $9 million conference center. They did not perform a feasibility study (aka a business plan) to determine whether it would be profitable and even useable, while offering all sorts of tax incentives; and obligating you to make up any financial shortfalls. They will award a contract to one of three bidders whose proposals are secretive.

First, Transform Jefferson City failed with over 5,000 no votes. Second, four town hall meetings approved a conference center with 120 yes votes out of approximately 200 total votes. And, third, the reasoning behind this project is that we (meaning our civic leaders) just have to build something so Jefferson City can enter the world of exhibits and meetings.

Our civic leaders should be questioned (particularly your council representatives) why has no feasibility study been performed? But, if so, why has it not been made public? What guarantees are offered that we taxpayers do not subsidize any losses? And what guaranteed will the city make that losses are not covered by transferring existing, voter-approved taxes to cover any losses? Responses must be complete, written, signed by the appropriate civic leaders and made public.

Based on the city's request for proposal, there is little information on what is desired from the bidders. Therefore what they will offer will not be suitable for most meeting planners. The city has failed to remind you that the current 4 percent lodging tax will provide an estimated $650,000 annually toward the facility. Combined with the yet-to-be-finalized tax incentives, the successful bidder will involve a minimum of his money and expect us to pick up the rest. Even so, the facility will still lack the amenities that most meeting planners expect. The facility will be empty for much of its life. And you will pay the bill.

You need to be aware of this gem.