Friday, February 5, 2010

Complete the vision at Ingalls Harbor

Editorial, The Decatur Daily

Book a vacation at the beach and you will pay a hefty lodging tax that goes for a variety of improvements you may never use.

Most large cities impose a lodging tax that doesn’t usually impact citizens because they don’t pay it. They stay at home.

In Decatur’s case, local hotels asked the city almost a decade ago to impose such a tax. It has generated in excess of $3 million for improvements and incentives that help the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau bring visitors to town.

The tax is $2 per room per night and generated $448,000 last fiscal year.

The city borrowed $4.2 million to buy and develop Ingalls Harbor, an industrial eyesore that a previous city administration began changing into one of the grandest places along the Tennessee River.

The hospitality tax pays the debt service. Convention and Visitor board members this week saw plans for the next phase.

Called “Completing the Vision,” the plan appears to capture what former Mayor Lynn Fowler and council members at that time had in mind when they called for a first-class facility.

The plan calls for a $2.7 million pavilion the board would like the city to consider on the park’s east side as the next improvement. It would be a 25,000-square-foot, multi-purpose facility.

In all, the plan calls for $7 million in phased-in additions — all first class. The hospitality tax is also enough to pay that debt, once the original debt is paid.

Remember: The city may pay for these additions using someone else’s money, which is smart business.

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