By Tracy Jacim, Reporter
TAVARES, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -- Construction has already begun on the new waterfront pier and pavilion in Tavares.
When the City Council approved the taxpayer-funded project years ago, its price tag was $3.4 million with a completion date of 2013. Now, the city has come back with upgrades to the tune of $2.9 million additional dollars, nearly doubling the cost and moving expected completion to 2014.
The city plans to take a loan out for the extra $2.9 million. City Manager John Drury tells FOX 35, "We envision over a three to five year period it being completely self-sufficient, including the paying for some of that debt service." When asked if there would be a tax increase to pay for the project, Drury replied, "No! No!"
According to Drury, the project will be paid for by property taxes. Though the city would like to eventually see some funding from the Tourist Development Council, which would mean tourist tax dollars, or bed taxes, would help pay for the project. Those revenues would come from competing businesses in the county, like the Mission Inn Resort in Howie-in-the-Hills.
Mission Inn Resort V.P., G.M., and part owner Bud Beucher says, "I don't think the government should ever compete with its citizens. I don't think they should own golf courses, they shouldn't own marinas, they shouldn't own hotels, they shouldn't own car companies, they shouldn't own banks. The government should not compete against its own citizens. It's just not right."
But Drury says, "We look at it as an economic engine and a feeder to area hotels. We look forward to attracting new conferences and conventions to the area."
Lake County resident, and self-ordained fiscal watchdog, Vance Jochim says the pavilion could actually be a good gamble, but he asks, "Should they be getting into this sort of business, when other businesses have paid property taxes and facilities cost and now the city is competing with them?"
Tavares City Manager John Drury says they've already got some potential business lined up. He says both the Seaplane Pilots' Association and the Florida Airports Council have already submitted written requests for openings.
Other cities also have city-run conference centers, but price tags vary, and the same questions about the role of government still exist.