The Lexington Herald-Leader reports:
Three days after state tourism officials suspended an $18 million tax incentive, officials at a Noah’s Ark theme park have sold their main parcel back to their for-profit entity for $10.
The issue started in late June after Ark Encounter LLC sold the parcel to its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon for $10. The deed continues to describe the property as worth $18 million even though the Grant County PVA has assessed the land for $48 million.
Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner has said that the city council would like to talk more with Ark officials, but so far, the two sides have not met. The council rejected the Ark’s offer of a $350,000 cap on the safety tax. Based on the Ark’s stated attendance of 1 million people this year, the tax would have brought in $700,000.
According to a press release from Mark Looy, the Chief Compliance Officer for Answers in Genesis and Ark Encounter, the first ownership transfer was made only to pressure the local authorities to place an annual cap on the safety tax, rather than have it be based on attendance. He writes:
The filing for an exemption as a religious non-profit (as permitted in the ordinance), was done in an attempt to get the county to change the wording as it currently stands, which would exempt the Ark Encounter. It was not to avoid paying its fair share, as some articles have suggested. The Ark was offering to pay up to $500,000 a year into the safety fund. The city rejected the offer.
To date, more than one million guests have visited the Ark, yet thankfully, calls for emergency services — to both Williamstown and Dry Ridge — have been few in number, averaging about 2 per week. It should also be noted that a user fee is often charged to an individual’s personal insurance for the cost of local medical emergency services’ response to the Ark.
Take it away, Friendly Atheist:
This is all deflection. It’s irrelevant that only a few people have needed emergency services so far. What’s important is how the potential number of emergencies will go up as more visitors come to the Ark, and the city needs to be prepared for that.
And the line about personal insurance is nonsense. While patients (and their insurance companies) may have to foot the bill for a ride to the ER, I don’t recall ever being asked to directly pay for a new fire truck or police vehicle. That’s what the safety fee covers.
Williamstown may not have needed more vehicles on hand a few years ago, but with all these tourists visiting, you can bet they now need more of them ready to go at any moment.