Thursday, July 27, 2006

Davis conference site short $1M
By Joseph M. Dougherty
Deseret Morning News

LAYTON — Davis County needs just over $1 million from the city of Layton to expand the Davis Conference Center.

The expansion, with a $13.2 million price tag, is nearly funded — through a county hotel-room tax, a legislative grant and future county bonds. But the county is short about $1 million needed to complete the financing.

During a Layton City Council work session Thursday, a contingent of county officials showed up in full force, outnumbering the council members in attendance, to ask how Layton could "participate."

After all, said county economic-development manager Kent Sulser, the conference center is in Layton, where restaurants and hotels would reap the benefits of increased traffic from conferencegoers.

A feasibility study completed earlier this year by Conventions, Sports and Leisure International found that the conference center has enjoyed success and could reap more if it had additional exhibition space.

So far this year, the county missed out on more than $5 million in potential revenue, and 42 groups weren't booked into the conference center because of a lack of space.

Sulser asked the council members to take a couple of weeks to consider some options for how the city could help the county with the $1,014,000 the county now lacks for the expansion. But council members were cautious and opted not to rush into an agreement with the county.

"We ought to have the full council here before we vote on it," said Councilman Renny Knowlton.

Two council members and Mayor Steve Curtis were out of town Thursday.

Wilf Sommerkorn, the county's director of community and economic development, said the county isn't trying to rush Layton into anything. "We're absolutely willing to give you all the time you need," he said.

But construction costs are rising by about one-half a percent each month, and a large conference would like to book a spot in September 2007 to use the 40,000-foot expansion of the center, Sommerkorn said.

"We can show you that to build it sooner is a greater advantage than to build it later," said Commissioner Dannie McConkie.

Recently, county commissioners raised the hotel-room tax in the county from 3 percent to 4.25 percent. Money from the tax, which is paid by people who rent hotel rooms in the county, will aid the county in the monthly financing of the center.

The state Legislature has also committed $500,000 to be used toward the center's expansion, and commissioners are prepared to issue sales-tax revenue bonds Aug. 15, when a public-comment period ends.

Layton city manager Alex Jensen asked the county to look at options for the city's contribution such as providing parking and detention basins for catching excess rain runoff at the center, or perhaps waiving impact fees for the expansion, as ways Layton could help out with the $1 million gap in funding.

Knowlton said he is glad the county came to the city earlier in the planning process rather than later. Councilman Michael Bowhuis agreed.

"I like the idea that here's the gap and here's the data," he said. "Before, it seemed like if we didn't come up with the money, it wasn't going to fly."

Above photo by by Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret Morning News: The Davis Conference Center expansion will cost $13.2 million

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