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Scottsbluff council rejects lodging tax
May 11, 2012 Jerry Purvis   

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proposed conceptual design for new sports complex in Gering

Members of the Scottsbluff City Council rejected a proposal to implement a 4.5 percent lodging tax that would, in part, help support a sports complex in Gering.

Gering Mayor Ed Mayo spoke before the Scottsbluff council about the proposed $12 million complex, to be built in phases just north of Five Rocks Amphitheater.

Gering had earlier passed an ordinance implementing the lodging tax. But two week later, they suspended the July 1 start date in order to allow time for more discussion.

The Gering lodging tax would have contributed about $49,000 a year to a fund that would be used for the city’s recreation and entertainment venues. If both Scottsbluff and Terrytown implemented the tax, it would generate about $270,000 a year.

Mayo, a volleyball official, told the council several college coaches have expressed an interest in hosting some of their regional tournaments in Gering if a sports complex were available.

Scottsbluff Mayor Randy Meininger said now wasn’t the time to consider a lodging tax and would not consider one until Gering completes a feasibility study on whether the proposed sports complex would be a success. He added the current proposal was only “conceptual in nature.”

Meininger also said the council needs to go through budget discussions before they would even consider implementing a lodging tax.

After the meeting, Mayo said he thought Scottsbluff council members listened with great interest. But he didn’t think an additional lodging tax would deter people from staying in the community. “When most people travel, they just ask what the room rate is, not what taxes are included.”

Mayo also said he’s a firm believer that a sports complex would need to eventually stand on its own and be self-sufficient because no one wants a facility that’s an albatross. And he said it’s also important to have a professional manager to keep the complex booked throughout the year with a variety of events.

“I think a sports complex could create jobs throughout the community,” Mayo said. “More people coming for events will spend more in the restaurants, hotels and stores. New businesses would also come to the area.”

Mayo also said people need to look forward with vision, not just at what exists today. “It’s like the turtle. If you don’t stick your neck out, you won’t move forward.”

A few weeks ago, when Gering suspended its lodging tax ordinance, council member Joyce Hillman-Kortum asked whether the city would be willing to “go it alone” if Scottsbluff refused to also pass the 4.5 percent tax. That question remains unanswered for now.
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