While "I support the convention center project and believe it's a positive for the county" and the city, Commissioner
Martin, who is in
"I think he needs to understand it better," Martin said of Lehman, who made his comments during the commissioners' regular Wednesday meeting.
As Lehman understands it, Martin's proposal would put county taxpayers on the hook for more than tripling the county's guarantee of the convention center's debt for the life of the loans in exchange for five years of financing. The bonds on the convention center expire in 2047.
That, Lehman said, "is not acceptable from my perspective."
Learning of Lehman's opposition, Mayor
Martin's proposal would have the county guarantee all of the convention center's
In exchange for the county guarantee, Martin said,
Before even considering a guarantee of the remaining bonds, Martin is calling on the other five parties involved in the center to participate in a collaboration agreement requiring contributions by all five.
Those parties are
The proposal has been signed by the city and the visitors bureau.
And the center authority and
The center authority's board is scheduled to meet Friday to consider Martin's proposal and a side agreement with
Martin - who has been working for two years to negotiate this financing plan - said the collaboration agreement would have no impact on county property taxpayers.
The county's hotel room tax, he said, averages about twice the
"That tax would have to collapse by more than half for that to be a problem," Martin said.
And that's why, Martin said, his proposal would continue to require putting revenue from the hotel room tax first toward the payment of principal and interest on the center's debt.
"Unless the state Legislature decides to eliminate the county hotel tax," Martin said, "it's always going to be heads in beds that's going to pay that."
"I was a little surprised," he said, "that statements (about the convention center proposal) were made this morning, in Commissioner Martin's absence," given that the soonest the proposal could come up for a vote is
Given Lehman's opposition, does Martin's proposal have a chance of being passed by the county's three-member board of commissioners?
Stuckey said he still needs to review the details before saying how he'll vote, but he does not share Lehman's particular concern.
"Commissioner Martin has worked very hard on this proposal, and, from what I understand of it, he has done a good job of protecting the taxpayer," Stuckey said.
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