Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Read Their Lips

The City was so excited about the plan they had proposed to create a big multi-sport complex with softball, baseball, and soccer fields. They cut a deal to buy the land for $27,000 an acre. The mayor suggested that the city could use about $300,000 in reserve funds for the project. Since the city had no comprehensive economic development plan, they told the citizens that the six-field complex could be marketed by the city to bring in regional tournaments to increase sales tax revenue. The voters didn't buy it.

Yesterday, only 220 of Farmington's 4,664 residents voted to raise the city sales tax to pay for the regional sports complex. They voted down two sales tax hikes that would have given the city the highest rate in Washington County to pay for maintenance and operation of the regional park and sports complex and to pay off the bonds to build it. For good measure, they also voted down the proposed bonds.

Maybe the residents were thinking about the costly decision that Springdale made to build a ballpark that isn't paying for itself and continues to drain tax dollars. Maybe they were thinking that the proposed regional sports park at the edge of Fayetteville will cost the city at least $28 million. Maybe they were thinking that the city didn't need an expensive regional park as much as other things. Maybe they didn't want to raise the regressive sales tax in uncertain economic times. Whatever, Farmington Mayor Ernie Penn said he "was kind of surprised."

We have no idea whether Farmington needs a big multi-field sports park for regional tournaments. We are glad, though, that the residents had a chance to vote on it before the mayor signed a contract that committed them to untold expenses and long-term debt to pay for it.

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