Senator calls for Etowah sports complex bond issuance to be delayed

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On the eve of going to Circuit Court for what was to be a routine validation of a bond agreement, the Etowah County Sports Complex Authority learned of the process being interrupted.

Senator Andrew Jones has filed a motion to intervene in required legal proceedings that would have given the green light to a bond issue of up to $ 10 million – refinancing existing debt for the authority and additional funds to complete the current project at Rainbow. City.

Etowah County Circuit Judge William Ogletree gave Jones, represented by lawyer Christie Knowles, a deadline Thursday to submit briefs in support of the intervention request, and the authority will have 24 hours to respond to the case.

The Etowah County Tourism Board voted on Tuesday to ask to intervene in the case as well.

ECMSCA President Ralph Burke said the hearing – announced for three weeks in a public notice that looked like a legal dispute between the authority and Etowah County taxpayers – was an unfolding requirement normally without a hitch if all other financing details line up. .

Senator Andrew Jones has filed a motion to intervene in required legal proceedings that would have given the green light to a bond issue of up to $ 10 million.

Burke said the authority’s plan is to refinance the original $ 5.5 million, plus an additional $ 3 million. He said court documents authorize up to $ 10 million, but the plan is to fund $ 8.5 million.

Jones said his motion is designed to “hit the pause button” and delay the process for 60 days due to questions or concerns he has about the authority.

He said he was concerned about the constitutionality of the legislation that established the authority and one of the forms of income incurred to repay it.

The legislation that created the authority capped accommodation tax revenue going to the Etowah County Tourism Board at $ 491,000, directing revenues in excess of that amount to the sports authority.

Jones said he plans to introduce legislation to remove that cap and that committing it to a obligations deal would prevent it. In her motion to intervene, Jones said the county lodging tax only exceeded $ 491,000 once, and when she did, it was only $ 7,000.

It would be more of a revenue stream than a flow for ECMSCA, he said, but it represents more for Etowah Tourism. The current cap means that there is only $ 491,000 available for tourism promotion in Etowah County each year, regardless of what to promote.

Tourism director Hugh Stump said tourism in Etowah County cannot develop with the cap in place. If the bond is validated with the commitment of the cap of $ 491,000, the cap will be frozen for the next 30 years, he said.

The question does not only concern the authority and the tourist office.

Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor said he understands the authority needs money to complete the project. He said Rainbow City executives did not believe they could pledge the land as collateral for the bond issue. This leaves the funding the authority receives – including accommodation tax revenues above the cap as collateral.

The mayor said the project had to be finished.

“We don’t want to have to pay for its completion,” Taylor said. “It was not the case.” The city bought the complex property from the authority and rented it out for $ 1 a year. Rainbow City also built a road leading to the resort – as well as connecting Lumley Road to Alabama Highway 77 – and purchased property in the area.

The prospect of the sports complex bringing growth to the area has played a role in the city’s investment in nearby property.

Taylor said he didn’t think anyone was entirely comfortable with the makeup of authority – something Jones tried to challenge a few years ago.

Jones said at the time that they couldn’t put everyone on the same page to change the makeup of authority.

Rainbow City Mayor Joe Taylor, pictured on the podium in this file photo, said he had tried for some time to arrange a meeting between the parties involved, but it kept s 'collapse.

The authority establishing legislation, sponsored by Craig Ford, then state representative, states that the authority will consist of the legislative sponsor of the act creating the authority, a member appointed by each member of the legislative delegation of the State and of the Director of the Chamber. of Commerce, and three members appointed by the Director of the Chamber of Commerce. It also allows the authority to add members by a majority of the votes of its members.

Taylor said he had tried for a while to arrange a meeting between the parties involved, but it kept falling apart.

In Jones’ motion to intervene, he is asking for 60 days for meetings to be arranged and some sort of agreement to be made.

If there is no agreement, he asked the court to remove the ceiling of $ 491,000 from the bond before validating it.

Burke said the authority was just trying to build a facility where children can play football. Ford said the “break” would likely delay work by two months and cost the authority additional interest.

“I don’t see why anyone would be against the kids in Etowah County who play football,” he said.

Contact Gadsden Times reporter Donna Thornton at 256-393-3284 or donna.thornton@gadsdentimes.com.


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