Bed tax will help to build new fairgrounds

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 4:01 p.m.
A new coliseum/fairgrounds will be built with an added penny to the bed tax under a proposal supported by the Alachua County Commission when it faced a long list of building needs and limited financial options to construct them.
The decision, reached Feb. 20 and which must be finalized at a future meeting, eliminates two proposals that were under consideration - expansion of the city of Gainesville's Martin Luther King Multi-purpose Center and a joint Santa Fe Community College Zoo/Kanapaha Botanical Gardens project.
"Knowing that we are trying to come up with a way to finance the fairgrounds, to me this seemed like a perfect opportunity," Commissioner Lee Pinkoson said. "It can be designed in such a way as to enhance the capability of the county to bring all kinds of events. Once we get that funded, we can do something with the current fairgrounds."f-z The 4-0 vote - with Mike Byerly absent - came at a meeting in which commissioners began laying the foundation for their 2008 budget, which is set to include a property tax reduction.
Commissioners for several years have been considering an additional penny to the tax charged on customers of hotels and other county lodging. It is currently 3 cents on the dollar. The commission can add a fourth cent for a project that would bring more visitors to the county. The county Visitors and Convention Bureau had reviewed several proposals and selected two for final consideration - the MLK expansion and a joint effort to build a conservatory at the Kanapaha gardens and an addition to the SFCC zoo.f-z Last year, commissioners bought land on Waldo Road for a new fairgrounds and industrial park. The current fairgrounds on NE 39th Avenue next to Gainesville Regional Airport are expected to become a business park. Commissioner Rodney Long recently suggested building a civic center with the bed tax money, but he supported the fairgrounds/coliseum idea.f-z Kanapaha Director Don Goodman, contacted after the meeting, said he was disappointed with the decision but added he will try to get the estimated $1 million needed for the conservatory through fundraising.
"It is their decision and they can dispose of the money as they see fit, but we are very disappointed," he said. "If public money is not available, we certainly are going to go the private fundraising route."
Commissioners also said they want a process to identify projects for a future 1-cent sales tax. Likely to be on that list is a jail addition. County Manager Randall Reid said he would like to convene a "quality of life summit" to engage residents in the process.

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