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Conn family asks commissioners for financial assistance

Looking to build a theater/hotel/event center complex

By CHRISTINE L. PRATT Staff Writer Published: May 6, 2017 5:00 AM

MILLERSBURG -- For a second time, members of the Conn family met on Monday with the Holmes County commissioners to ask for financial assistance from the county in the development of a new hotel and entertainment complex.

In advocating for their cause, Mike Conn, discussed the economic impact the 600-seat theater, 400-600 seat event center and 81-room hotel, all bearing the Encore name, will have on the area.

The complex, which would be available to locals, he said, also is expected to attract tourists, especially in the traditional off-season, who, likely would spend money with other retailers.

The hotel would generate more than $100,000 in estimated bed tax dollars and $120,000 in estimated sales tax revenues annually, Conn said, adding the entire expansion project would result in the creation of 30 full- and part-time jobs.

A major financial endeavor for the family, he said, they have secured funding for construction, but "cash flow for operations, once it's built, will be tight."

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Acknowledging the commissioners' prior rejection of a proposal the county approve the project for tax increment financing -- essentially allowing developers to repay investors with abated property tax dollars over a period of time -- they came to the meeting with several new options for the county to help.

Little time was devoted to their request the county establish a Community Reinvestment Area because it was agreed the area likely would not meet the income guidelines for such.

Commissioners, likely, were swift in shooting down requests for a sales tax exemption on construction materials and bed tax exemption. While unclear if they had the authority to do either, Commissioner Joe Miller, speaking for the group, suggested it would be unfair to other businesses in the area and "we would have to do it for the whole county."

Adding, "You guys are really good at what you do," Miller reiterated his advice from the prior meeting that, if funding is an issue, the family should consider a phased plan, which would leave construction of the hotel until a later date.

He did acknowledge the existing Amish Country Theater helps to attract visitors from great distances, and, with that understanding, encouraged them to apply for a bed tax grant, many of which are awarded, but for a maximum of about $10,000 a year, often much less.

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The commissioners did say they would consider a proposal to waive wastewater tap fees up to the cost of construction of a lift station to service the property and surrounding areas. They encouraged the Conns to make application to County Engineer Chris Young, who could then officially present the request to the commissioners for approval.

That option, the commissioners agreed, is one they could, theoretically, get behind, knowing it has the potential to serve a larger community, helps to improve the infrastructure and is similar in nature to assistance offered to other businesses with respect to wastewater improvements.

"We're on board. We want to do something. It's a great project for the community," said Commissioner Rob Ault, noting the commissioners must exercise caution when handling public money.

"With respect to the proposed waiver of tap fees, he said, "fill out an application. We'll see what we can do."

Reporter Christine Pratt can be reached at 330-674-5676.

or cpratt@the-daily-record.com.


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