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Friday, June 25, 2010

Commissioners Slow to Approve TDC Mission Changes

At Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, the commissioners slowed the planned approach in changing the mission and usage of TDC funding. The TDC was created by a public referendum in 1994, which approved creation of a 2% “Bed Tax” which is charged to customers by all county motels and campgrounds. Several years later, the Board of Commissioners approved an ordinance which added another 2% to this first tax, thus creating a “Bed tax” to overnight visitors of 4%. Added to the 7 ½ % sales tax, the total tax added to room charges by motels is now 11 ½ %.

The ordinance specified that the revenues from this extra 2% in taxation was to be earmarked in a special fund for the eventual construction of a “convention center”. That fund has now grown to approximately one million dollars. However, the enthusiasm for a convention center has since waned. The costs were determined to be over $10,000,000 for such a facility, and without the supporting infrastructure and attractions the economic viability of such a facility was questioned. Additionally, experts in tourism have since advised against the construction, and have recommended other approaches to increasing area tourism, including additional advertising throughout the Southeast.

These changes thus led the TDC to request modification of the original ordinance so as to no longer specify that these funds must be used for a Convention Center, and to allow other usage. After much discussion at the meeting, and an attempt by Commissioner Spires to deny any changes in the TDC mission plan and to deny a public hearing on the ordinance change, the Commissioners finally voted 4-1 to hold a public hearing on the ordinance change at the next Commission meeting, which will occur on Tuesday, July 13 at 9:00 AM.

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