Tax hike won’t solve fairgrounds funding problem

To the editor:

Rep. Bob Cherry has always said the devil is in the details. He is right, and he needs to heed his own advice. Sponsoring any legislation that proposes to increase Hancock County’s food and beverage tax an additional 1 percent does nothing to solve all the funding problems and misconceptions associated with the new fairground, convention and exhibition center proposed for the county farm site along U.S. 40.

First of all, the increase is just a drop in the bucket. Just because a bunch of money-grabbin’ yahoos want you to think that this will be sufficient to build what they are proposing doesn’t make it so. All the 1 percent does is perpetuate the big lie and allow them to move the project along while an unsuspecting and uniformed public goes about doing whatever they do.

All the 1 percent increase in the food and beverage tax does is to allow for further leveraging and incentivizing. In other words, we are talking about more borrowing and bonding, further increases in local option income taxes and all kinds of shell games to maximize the county’s borrowing power and bleed more tax dollars from taxpayers.

I would hope that Rep. Cherry and the other state legislators would not allow themselves to be used as pawns for perpetrating such an insidious scheme on their unsuspecting constituents.

I would also hope that he and his fellow legislators would protect their constituents from the faulty and misguided discretion of a bunch of greedy county officials. If it is Rep. Cherry’s desire to merely give the people of this community a tool to help them with a temporary funding problem, then why not let the people decide this issue by referendum?

The naïve and gullible citizens of Hancock County would be well advised to keep their eyes on all the shenanigans that Commissioner Stevens and council members Kent Fisk, Jim Shelby, Bill Bolander and the rest are up to.

They have misrepresented the scope and the specifics of this project from day one. They have understated the costs of building the proposed venue and facilities from the start.

We still have not been assured that all the infrastructure, furnishings, equipment, roads, fencing, site lighting, vehicles, public address systems, event signage and other costs have been included.

Has any public official bothered to put a pencil to it and actually done a little adding?

Remember when talking about costs, the costs to design and build are not necessarily the same as the final costs to the taxpayer. A $50 million building cost can easily translate into over $100 million. Actual costs to taxpayers are a function of how the project costs are funded.

Once built, the facilities must be staffed, operated and maintained. There are costs for all of this. These costs are hefty.

The solution to the fairground problem remains unchanged. Have the county commissioners appoint their own county board or commission and have it get on with the task of designing and building a simple, reasonable and affordable new county fairground (if that is what is truly needed and wanted).

John Priore