The city of Paducah on Tuesday took steps toward an agreement with the McCracken County Fiscal Court that would help to fund an indoor recreation complex and sports fields.
The Paducah City Commission introduced two ordinances on the matter. The first was to establish an interlocal agreement empowering the future McCracken County Tourism Sports Commission to pursue the development of tournament-worthy sports facilities, while the second would rename the Paducah-McCracken County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"This has been the culmination of several months' of work between the county and the city," City Manager Jim Arndt said. "It really goes hand-in-hand with our Strategic Plan initiatives, making sure we have baseball and softball fields that are tournament-worthy."
Funds for these amenities would come, in part, from changes to the structure and collection of the transient room tax, sometimes called a hotel tax. The county currently collects a 6% transient room tax, using half the money to pay for the Paducah-McCracken County CVB, and splitting the other half between the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center Corporation and debt payments on the Carson Center and the Convention Center, city spokeswoman Pam Spencer said.
The interlocal agreement introduced Tuesday would allow the county to collect a 6% tax on hotel and motel rooms, including those within the city limits. Half of the county tax would go to a new county tourism and sports commission.
"In terms of the economy of Paducah, we need this," City Commissioner Brenda McElroy said. "Businesspeople want to know where your state-of-the-art ball fields are."
Commissioner Gerald Watkins concurred.
"It's a multimillion-dollar tourism industry, and sports is also a quality of life (factor). If we expect to be able to recruit employers, we've got to have a quality of life that would make them want to live here, and right now, we don't have that," he said.
Rooms in Paducah would also be subject to an additional 4% tax under the agreement.
The remaining 2% of the county's room tax will be designated for debt payment for the Carson Center and Convention Center, and 1% will fund a designated convention center facility, Arndt said.
The McCracken County Fiscal Court's decision not to explicitly mention the Convention Center Corporation in its portion of the interlocal agreement was the only point of difference Mayor Brandi Harless brought up Tuesday.
"I don't know if it's enough for me to stop this process, but I am still uncomfortable with the county not specifically identifying the Convention Center Corporation in our interlocal agreement, and (thus) being firm about their commitment to fund them, as we have been," she said. "I think it's unstable. I think it does not create revenue for the CCC."
The fiscal court chose that wording in order to allow "flexibility" in the agreement, County Commissioner Bill Bartleman said at Monday's fiscal court meeting.
"I would never suggest that we wouldn't support the existing convention center, but I think we need to have some flexibility to give future fiscal courts the ability to designate the official convention center," he said.
In contrast, 3% of the city room tax will go to the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau, with the remaining 1% designated for the Paducah-McCracken County Convention Center facilities.
The second ordinance on the subject was introduced to rename what will become the city's CVB. The city will have the sole authority to appoint that organization's board, and will act as its sole governing body. Current board members will retain their positions until their terms end.
The changes will not go into effect until all agencies -- the city, the county, the McCracken County Tourism and Sports Commission, the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Convention Center Corporation -- adopt the interlocal agreement fully, Arndt said.
Harless said a vote on the ordinance is likely at the Aug. 26 joint meeting of the city commission and the county's fiscal court.
"We should be very proud," she said.