By Martin Couch
Bryant residents will get a chance to ask questions regarding the proposed one-cent countywide sales tax to build a FairPlex when an informational meeting will be held Tuesday night at 7 p.m., in the conference room of the Holiday Inn Express.
Benton Advertising and Promotions Executive Director Jill Jones will be on hand to answer questions and listen to Bryant’s residents’ comments about the issue. In turn, Jones will provide information about the proposal before a special election is held on Aug. 10 to vote on the FairPlex proposal.[more]
Although the town hall meeting for Bryant will be the first of many planned for the area, there are city aldermen who have already heard from residents and will be fully armed when questioning begins tomorrow.
“Personally, I think it could be a great asset to Saline County, and Bryant could reap benefits through restaurants and hotels,” said alderman Scott Curtis. “That emphasis on Bryant is important, but we need to know more. I have a couple of concerns about the vote passing. It will be up to the citizens to get behind it and support it.”
Bryant already has an imposed three-cent sales tax and alderman Adrian Henley is steadfastly opposed to a new tax until he gets more information on the issue.
“At this time, I am not for it as I don’t want any more taxes imposed on Bryant residents nor do I see it as a benefit to the city of Bryant,” Henley said. “I will be there (Tuesday) and I’m trying to get as many people as I can to come and ask questions that need to be addressed about this project. I can say now, I am against any new tax for the city of Bryant as we are tied for the highest in the state.”
Alderman Ed Collins had more to say on the project and its funding proposal.
“The buzz in the political world in Saline County is the proposed FairPlex complex that comes with a temporary one-cent sales tax that will be voted on Aug. 10 with a special election that was set up and paid for by private contributors,” Collins said. “Jones has been involved in the research and planning (of the project) which could bring as much as $32 million a year in revenue, according to reports. This has been a two-year research and development project that seems to be standing on firm ground.
“The question that will come into the minds of most citizens in my Ward and the citizens of Bryant is, what about the price in increased tax dollars at the register that the citizens of Bryant will pay, to include all visitors who spend money in the city?”
Collins said he does understand the need for a positive economic catalyst for development in the county, which, in his words, “has not happened thus far.
“I also understand that our Country has experienced a recession and its effect across the United States to include the city of Bryant,” he said. “It’s going to be a very hard decision for voters in Bryant, considering the school district millage tax took three times to pass and, before that the city levied a tax for the Bishop Park complex and the fire department to expand to a 24 hour operation with increase in personnel.”
Collins says Bryant will experience an estimated total earnings of $1,720,000 to $2,037,000 from the FairPlex “in a stabilized year.
“It should create 80 to 100 jobs in the beginning as well as more jobs as time moves forward,” Collins said. “Due to the city of Bryant having the most hotels in comparison to that of the city of Benton, which means the city of Bryant will be the beneficiary of 30 percent of revenue generated because of the FairPlex. The bonds are expected to be paid off in five to seven years if not before and Bryant will expect revenue in the general fund somewhere around $250,000 a year.”
That money, Collins says, can be used for storm water drainage (flooding), increase in police protection, and School Resource Officers among other things.
“However, the spending and budgeting is left up to the city council, so cast your vote wisely,” he said. “I have seen firsthand how a bad economy has affected people and some of the people I know have become unemployed due to a bad economy. It’s ugly, just ugly. So, I look at this FairPlex proposal in a way that you can say we would be investing in ourselves, our county and the city, all at one time. We, as a county, would be investing in ourselves and that can be a good thing.”
However, he points out the downside of the proposed tax, too.
“The bad part is the increase of another tax burden that the citizens and visitors of the county and cities will be faced with over the next five years or so, and it will have an effect on every household every time we, as citizens, spend money in the city of Bryant,” he added. “That includes the weekly groceries at Wal-Mart and Target and going out to dinner with the family. It will be a tax burden, but do we, as taxpayers who live in this county or who visit, carry the burden for a short period so we can control the economic destiny of our county and cities or do we let destiny and what that may bring control us?”
Citizens are urged to come out on Tuesday night to voice their concerns about the FairPlex issue.