Civic Center pushes for tax

First Posted: 2/13/2015

LIMA — Representatives from Veterans Memorial Civic Center met with Allen County Commissioners Friday to make their case for an additional 3 percent lodging tax on county hotels, the revenue from which would help provide needed repairs and maintenance for the downtown facility.

“We want the 3 percent to come to the Civic Center at least for a few years to get us where we want to be as a viable entity, and I think the 3 percent can do it,” Civic Center executive vice-president Jeff Tracy said.

Civic Center officials hope to use the funds to conduct assessments of the facility as well as fund repairs, hoping to ensure any additional funds are used in the best possible way.

“An assessment gives you a blueprint to improve,” Tracy said. “We can say what we need, but as a public facility, we want to make sure this is done the right way, and a professional assessment is the right thing to do.”

Discussions about this proposed tax increase go back as far as April, with representatives from the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association arguing that a potential 15.75 overall tax for lodgers in Allen County could divert potential hotel traffic away. Delphos Mayor Michael Gallmeier voiced similar concerns, noting that travelers may forego hotels in Delphos to flock to Van Wert and the county’s 13 percent tax rate for hotel rooms.

For Tracy, however, a tax that would add $3 to a $100 room charge is not a large enough increase to hurt business.

“You stay in a hotel, you’re going to pay $12, $15 or $18 individual tax, community tax, occupancy tax, and so on,” he said.

Civic Center board member Steve Kayatin pointed to a current building situation the county is dealing with to emphasize the importance of taking care of the Civic Center now rather than later.

“If we don’t start addressing the Civic Center now, we’ll have another Memorial Hall in 15 to 20 years,” he said.

John Heaphy of Good Food Hospitality Inc. also made a case for the tax, speaking as a member of the Lima community.

“This vote, to me, is about pride, about respect, about teaching the generations below us that we should respect our town and community and invest in it,” he said. “If we have a thriving, well-run, exciting, young-feeling downtown with a big city feel to it — we have a market of a quarter million people in the counties around us — and those people will want to come somewhere where they can feel the big city a bit.”

After the meeting, commissioner board president Greg Sneary remarked that the deliberations for the decision on this new tax are in their final stages, with a decision potentially coming as soon as next week.

“We’re moving forward with it, not ready to say that this is what we’re going to do, but we’re very close on that,” he said. “We’re just getting some last-minute details.”

Tracy expressed optimism after the meeting, gratified that the commissioners are not moving too quickly to a decision.

“I think we’re heading the right way,” he said. “There’s always time to do it right in a community. We applaud our elected officials for taking the time to do it right.”

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