AEDI study indicates boost to Fort Smith’s tourism and the County’s GDP

Fort Smith residents may have opportunity to vote on a tax to help complete U.S. Marshals Museum - AEDI study indicates boost to tourism and the County's GDP.

Fort Smith residents may have opportunity to vote on a tax to help complete U.S. Marshals Museum

Tax could help pay for U.S. Marshals Museum

By Jadyn Watson-Fisher / Times Record / jwatsonfisher@swtimes.com | December 9, 2018

A new nine-month tax and a parking meter project are on the agenda for Tuesday’s Board of Directors study session.

Around $35.4 million has been raised for the U.S. Marshals Museum on the Fort Smith riverfront, but it needs $17 million to complete the project. The USMM will ask directors to present a one-time penny sales tax to complete the project. The tax would be in effect for only nine months, according to information provided to the Times Record.

Citizens would have an opportunity to vote on the proposal March 12, 2019, with the USMM incurring the cost for the special election. The tax would be applied from July 1, 2019, until March 31, 2020. After March 31, 2020, the tax would expire permanently, according to the presentation.

In the presentation given to the board, $15 million to $16 million would go directly toward the completion of the museum. Fort Smith would have no control over how the funds are spent.

According to the document, a public facilities board that includes community members will own and operate the building and grounds. This board would be created through the directors passing an ordinance.

The public facilities board would purchase the building and grounds from the U.S. Marshals Museum, Inc. for the amount received from the tax. The USMM Board of Directors would operate the museum and Fort Smith would have no control over its operations.

Neither the facilities board nor the city would be responsible for any future operating costs of the museum, the presentation states.

According to estimates provided by the Arkansas Economic Development Institute, there will be a $13 million to $22 million effect from the USMM and “related tourist expenditures” in Sebastian County. It also estimates there will be a $7 million to $12 million impact on Sebastian County GDP.

The board is also scheduled to receive an update from Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman on a parking meter replacement project.

In a memo from Dingman to City Administrator Carl Geffken, some downtown business owners are in support of keeping parking meters but believe they should be upgraded to allow for payment via credit or debit card, prepaid parking card or mobile app.

After sending a request for proposals in June, six companies’ submissions were evaluated. Once two firms were selected as finalists, they made product demonstrations to a panel with administration, finance, police, IT and parking representation, the memo states.

POM Inc., which provides Fort Smith’s current meters, was selected. The meters would be solar-powered and fit most of the meter poles present. They also have a green or red light to indicate if a meter has expired.

Dingman wrote that the meters can be managed through an online system, too, allowing for the retrieval of parking data. These meters have the capabilities to support mobile payment via cellular device on various platforms, and the company will feature its own payment app next year.

“In addition to best meeting the city’s hardware needs, the POM proposal is also the most economical solution,” Dingman wrote in the memo.

A new parking meter is $875 and a retrofitted meter is $654. It would cost an estimated $285,000 to $380,000, depending on the total number of meters that can be retrofitted rather than completely replaced, the memo states.

The parking authority fund currently has a $419,500 balance. Its estimated gross annual revenue is $180,000 with operating expenses of $110,000.

These two issues will be discussed at the study session at noon Tuesday. It will be held in the Community Room at the Fort Smith Public Library Main Branch.

Read the full article on the Times Record…

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