TDVA seeks "legal comforting" before supporting bonding for Kahle |

TDVA seeks "legal comforting" before supporting bonding for Kahle

by Sally J. Taylor

Despite a desire to move on from the controversy surrounding the construction of Kahle Park Phase II with bonding of room tax revenue, the Tahoe-Douglas Visitors Authority again adjourned its meeting Wednesday without taking a formal position.

Despite board members’ general support of the park and a willingness to see Phase II constructed, even with bonding, a motion in support of the Douglas County Commissioners’ decision to fund the park through bonding petered out without passing.

And despite commissioners’ suggestions that the board “do the right thing” and let the legal issues be hashed out later, the board ended the discussion with a request for a more defined legal opinion.

The last three meetings of the TDVA have been dominated by reactions to the action taken in January by the Douglas County Commissioners to fund the next phase of construction of the park with the same revenue source as the first phase – bonding secured by transient occupancy tax revenue. Until the first bonds expire in 2004, a total of about $1.7 million could be diverted from marketing tourism.

The TDVA, created by the Nevada legislature by AB616 to manage promotional funds, is taking it’s job seriously.

Through that bill, the organization currently has revenue for tourism promotions from a 1 percent room tax increase and, beginning in 1999, room tax revenues now being used for county services will be gradually transferred to promotions.

“Our mission statement is not to debate bonding issues,” said board member Skip Sayre, director of marketing for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. “We’re off track. …

“Let legal council hash out the language to avoid a legal situation down the road.”

In a preliminary analysis, TDVA legal counselor Morgan Baumgartner of Lionel Sawyer & Collins, told the board that “the intent of AB616 is very clear. Marketing dollars are earmarked for marketing Lake Tahoe …. to regenerate the economy here.”

On the other hand, Douglas County legal counsel believes that bonding can occur before 1999, she said. “We would disagree.”

Concern for the legal issue and whether the county would come back to the room-tax well for other uses has created a logical/emotional tug-of-war, said board member Kevin Servatius, the senior vice president and general manager of Harveys Resort Hotel/Casino.

“I would need emphatic assurance that this was it because of the unique situation (of Kahle Park as a work in progress),” Servatius said.

“I also wrestle with the logical and emotional and wind up on the emotional side,” said board chairman Dave Attaway, the general manager of Caesars Tahoe.

“I believe the park should exist. I also believe it should be constructed with my sales tax or property tax dollars as such things are paid for everywhere else I’ve lived.”

Both Commissioner Steve Weissinger, who holds the county seat on the TDVA board and Commissioner Don Miner, who observed the meeting in the audience, urged the board to “do yourself a favor by supporting (bonding) tonight,” Weissinger said.

“Do yourself a favor,” Miner said. “Don’t worry about the fiduciary responsibility. If it’s wrong, it’ll get fixed.”

Weissinger began a motion of support that was seconded by Attaway. However, the rest of the board expressed the need for “legal comforting” before they could support the motion.

Baumgartner, after discussions with county legal council Scott Doyle, will present a legal opinion at the next TDVA meeting scheduled for March 11 at 6 p.m. at the Douglas County Administrative Building in Stateline.

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