“We have an obligation to not only help bring in new business but to provide assistance to our older, established businesses, as well,” authority member Scott Smith said.
Smith make a motion to endorse a tax break of $85,050 for the proposed five-acre addition to the park, which is located on Lakeview Drive in Rossville.
The board voted unanimously in favor of the tax break, after husband and wife Tommy and Tennyson Dickinson, members of the family that owns the amusement park, told the board that even after the 3-percent relief in that first year, the county would still reap $17,930 in new tax revenue. This is after the water park is slated to generate $102,980 in total taxes that first year.
Tennyson Dickinson said the park would be ready to open May 24, just in time for Memorial Day (May 27).
Tommy Dickinson said, “We are trying to do this in a first-class manner, so dollars are very, very precious. This is an almost 88-year-old family business. It's never asked anything of anybody.”
The $6.3 million in funds for the project are all private money.
The sales tax relief applies only to manufactured goods used in the building of the water park. It will not include site preparation, power, water, and so on.
According to Skip Patty, attorney for Catoosa County, the bill itself must be approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners and then receive an OK at the state level. It carries a sunset provision, which means it would expire in 2014, making it a one-year abatement only.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, from Chickamauga, is signed on and ready to carry the bill at the state level, according to the Dickinsons. Tennyson Dickinson said the senator did not want to proceed without the county's approval. For the state to approve, the project would have to be deemed as having significant regional impact.
The park is seeking the abatement under House Bill 386, which became law last May and seeks to give tax abatement at the state and county level from sales and local use taxes.
The members of the board were told by the Dickinsons that the new park will create about 55 new seasonal jobs, along with possibly up to three permanent positions.
According to a financial impact statement prepared by University of Tennessee-Chattanooga economics professor William Legg, the county would see a net gain over five years of $1.2 million, this coming after the initial tax relief period, which might last anywhere from six months to a year, according to Mr. Dickinson.
Commissioner approval expected today
With the development authority's approval in hand, the endorsement now goes before the county Board of Commissioners at its scheduled 6 p.m. meeting today.
With the commissioners’ anticipated approval of the 3-percent tax break, Sen. Mullis is prepared to ask the state legislature to give up its 4-percent share of property taxes.
Tennyson Dickinson told the board that, according to an analysis of the zip codes of park visitors, 26 percent of all park visitors come from beyond a 60-mile radius of the park. The Dickinsons also said that the park is in the process of putting up signs at the Cloud Springs Road — or Costco — exit on I-75.
“This a great marriage of venues between the dry park and the water park,” Tommy Dickinson said. “If you get hot — go over to the water park.”
Lake Winnepesaukah will be a one price/one ticket attraction for both venues.