City council at standstill on hospitality tax

  • Thursday, June 20, 2013

Goose Creek’s hospitality tax has passed a first reading but will need a second before it goes into effect.
Improvements to the Casey Community Center was the main item discussed at a Goose Creek City Council workshop regarding the hospitality tax held last week, as council discussed possible uses for the tax if it were passed.
Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler and city council members have said they would like more information on how the money will be spent and how it will impact businesses before passing a 2 percent hospitality tax.
Heitzler asked each councilmember what recreation and tourism projects they would like to see if the hospitality tax were passed.
Councilmember Kimo Esarey said he would like to see a bike trail from Wannamaker Park to Cypress Gardens. Heitzler said much of that would be outside the city limits.
Councilmember John McCants said he would like to see improvements to the Casey Center. “When you look at places that don’t have a lot of recreation there is more crime,” McCants said. “We keep talking about taking the Casey Center down.”
He said nothing needs to be taken down until there is something to replace the Casey Center. He added that there needs to be such a facility open seven days a week with public access to bathrooms and water fountains.
Councilmember Franklin Moore said the imposed tax would need to be spent on necessities, not bells and whistles. He suggested hiring someone to see if the cost of renovating the Casey Center would be higher than building a new facility.
“The road in front of the Casey Center has sunk and needs to be rebuilt,” Heitzler said. “Both parking lots and tennis courts sank. I have a feeling we have subsurface problems under the building.”
Tekac said he would defer the expertise of city staff, which has a capital projects list.
Esarey mentioned that former Food Lion at Plantation Square could possibly be bought and turned into a recreation park or water park that would regenerate money.
McCants said the property has always been a problem and there’s not much that can be done until it is owned by the city.
Heitzler said city staff recommended going forward with Phase 2 of the Community Center, which would likely take over activities currently at the Casey Center. McCants agreed Phase 2 would be good.
“I’m not sure much of these projects are a necessity,” Moore said.
“We don’t need any of these things,” Heitzler said. “The community center was not a necessity . . . we have a good town now. We don’t need to build bike trails or a gymnastic center.”
Moore said renovating or replacing the Casey Center is a necessity and something needs to be done about it.
Other future possibilities mentioned were an amphitheater, skate parks, a tennis facility, an indoor pool as Phase 3 of the community center and a boardwalk behind the pond at city hall.
Heitzler said the tax would generate about $1 million a year and the first possible project – building Phase 2 of the community center – will cost an estimated $6 million.
“That puts us six years out,” he said.
“You can get a lot more accomplished with one project at a time,” Tekac said. “I don’t agree with all of the projects.”
Tekac said there needs to be more input from business folks and how the tax will impact them and constituents. “Building repairs should not be tied to the hospitality tax. We should do that with what we have.”
He suggested hiring someone independent of city staff and the recreation department for a less biased opinion.
Heitzler said he would ask city staff to assess the Casey Center and report back.
The floor was opened to Casey Center Coach Jason Simpson who said the Casey Center is a necessity because 700 people are regularly there doing anything from gymnastics to painting to pottery.
The ages of people who use the facility range from 18 months to 75 years, he said.
He added there are 75 business licenses there and 16 people who operate ballet, robotics camps, Goose Creek High School cheerleaders and more.
“When t-ball starts the place is crawling – there’s 1,000 people there,” he said. “When I started five years ago there were 40 people using that center. Now it’s grown seven times.”

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