Steve Rogers

About Steve Rogers

Assistant News Director/Assignment Editor; degree in finance and administration from Yale University; 35 years experience in journalism.

Video: Cost Overruns May Renew Trotter Expansion Discussion

[jwplatform xEd9EZNH]COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) — Cost overruns may revive an old discussion about a possible major expansion for the Trotter Convention Center in Columbus.

In private meetings with city leaders today, architect Major Andrews IV outlined $4 million in proposed renovations to the 30-year-old facility. But the city has only budgeted $2.4 million — a 20-year loan to be repaid by fees from Columbus Light and Water — for upgrades to everything from the sound system to bathrooms.

City leaders say an elevator and other items likely will have to go.

At least one council member says it may be time for the city to consider asking the Legislature to eliminate the $350,000 floor on the local 2 percent restaurant tax and pumping the new revenue into a full-fledged expansion. Work is scheduled to begin this spring.

“It’s just worth a thought,” Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin rold Mayor Robert Smith, fellow Councilmen Joseph Mickens and Marty Turner and other department heads during their session.

“It may be time to sit down with Jeff Smith (state representative) and Terry Brown (state senator) and talk about it. We could get someone to run some numbers on what it might generate and we could put together a long-range plan for the Trotter or that whole area,” Gavin said, explaining the city could devise a system that would assure the Convention and Visitors Bureau, which gets the restaurant tax revenue, won’t lose funding.

Currently, restaurants and food sellers like convenience stores have to have $350,000 a year in revenue before collecting the 2 percent tax. Many avoid the tax by saying they don’t meet the threshold.

“It would level the playing field and everyone would pay,” Gavin noted. “I don’t know of anyone who thinks about the tax when deciding where to eat. It’s 40 cents on a $20 tab.”

The change would require legislative approval.

Columbus is the only city in the state with a threshold that high.

The idea of removing it and funneling the revenue to an expansion of the Trotter first came up eight years ago but never got off the ground in the wake of infighting between the city and county.

Thursday’s meetings were helds with three Council members at a time so they wouldn’t have to be held in public.