By Stan Welch
A proposed countywide two cent hospitality tax dominated the Anderson County Council meeting Tuesday night, though there was virtually no movement in the positions of the various Council members since the last meeting.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson repeated her concerns about the proposed issuance of a twenty million dollar bond to be used in accelerating the various projects. According to the proposal as it stands, the approximate two million dollars in annual revenues would be used to service the debt, with annual payments of approximately $1.6 million over the seventeen year life of the bond.
Wilson, citing the approach used by Honea Path, advocated a pay as you plan, rather than borrowing the money. She also expressed concerns about the authority given to county employees to review the records of private businesses to confirm compliance with the tax. “I’m just not comfortable being a dictator”, she said.
Other concerns expressed by Wilson included the hiring of additional employees to administer the tax, to perform maintenance on the various parks and other facilities that would result, as well as the way in which the tax is being proposed and promoted. “It just gives the appearance of being railroaded through.”
She reiterated her preference for a referendum, rather than a simple vote by the Council. “We need to slow this down a little bit, and let people get informed about it. I’m just afraid this will start us back towards the deep hole of debt that we got in under the last administrator, a hole we are just now getting out of.”
District Four Councilman Tom Allen will begin holding a series of town hall meetings across his district to receive public input.
District Two Councilwoman Gracie Floyd had a separate allotment of time on the agenda to air her views on the tax. They were essentially the same as the last time. She doesn’t like the way the revenues will be distributed, but she does not see the need for a referendum.
She was especially unhappy with the amount slated for use in improving the Green Pond Landing, and the development of the Dolly Cooper Park in Powdersville. That park is slated for the construction of three soccer fields and two baseball fields, as well as parking. District Six Councilman Ken Waters, who is sponsoring the ordinance, was not present Tuesday night, due to a medical procedure he underwent.
Green Pond Landing would consume five million dollars of the projected revenues, with the addition of more dock space, and construction of an amphitheater to allow the weigh in ceremonies to take place on site. Currently, the anglers from the growing number of professional bass tournaments travel to Greenville for weigh-ins.
The Journal’s readership area would see a half million dollars spent on what is described as park improvements, but which is likely to involve the development or improvement of athletic facilities. Perhaps the most controversial project proposed is the construction of a six and a half million dollar water park and swimming pool to be located at the Anderson Civic Center.
Despite Floyd’s complaints about the proposed projects, Broadway Lake will receive two million dollars in improvements, including a swim area, seawall replacement, a new shelter and extensive landscaping. The Parker Bowie Sports Complex will receive a million dollars to install another ball field, new bathroom facilities and a playground.
Various smaller projects are also slated for virtually every region of the county.
Proponents of the tax argue that while the use of the funds is limited to recreation and tourism related activities, the presence of those revenues can release pressure on the general fund, which is often tapped in order to meet funding needs that the tax would address.
Opponents of the tax oppose it for all the usual reasons: misuse of current tax revenues, the burden the tax will impose, and distrust of public officials. In this instance, the argument that the government should not be competing with private business was applied to the proposed water park as well.
There was no second reading of the ordinance Tuesday night, only an exchange of information and views. A public hearing is required prior to final approval of the ordinance.