Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Daniel Thompson

City Allows Pursuit Of Location For Welcome Center


The County Commissioners will allow the Visitors Committee to pursue property after hearing the result of research into purchasing the old Burger King building near I-80 for the purpose of converting it into the new High Point Welcome Center.

According to County Tourism Director Jo Caskey, she and her team met with the owner of the property Friday, March 29, in order to discuss possible options for leasing or buying the building.

“He made a fairly generous offer to do the property as a contract for deed. He’s willing to amortize the deal at the rate of a 20 year contract rate. However, at the end of 10 years he’d like a balloon payment. There would be no down payment required and no pre-pay off penalty clause,” Caskey said.

Though the offer seems rather good for the county’s purposes, there are a few issues that arise from the purchasing of the building regarding the county tax base.

“The main issue that this would generate is that if the county buys that property it goes off the tax rolls. If that goes off the tax rolls, that’s lost revenue for the county. We don’t want to do anything that has a negative impact on the county,” Caskey said.

However, Caskey has come up with a possible solution to the problem through lodging tax, which is only taken from people who stay in local hotels overnight.

“It’s figured on 155 room nights a night figuring an average of 30 days per month. We have a possibility of 4,650 room nights a month to sell. It takes on average 26 room nights to generate $100 in lodging tax,” Caskey said.

Though Caskey acknowledges that no community is ever 100 percent full except maybe one week out of the year, the potential revenue through lodging tax could fund the welcome center completely.

“The potential is there for roughly $18,000 a month in revenue. Based on the projected budget for operations, we could actually meet all visitor committee operation requirement and run the welcome center. If you would look at even 50 percent of that, $9,000 a month would still be very close to operations,” Caskey said.

According to Caskey, the funds for the welcome center and the plan to fund it involve only lodging tax dollars and grant money, not any county tax dollars.

“I’m not looking for a penny of county tax dollars. What I’m looking for is a way to make sure the county doesn’t lose any dollars by that property going off the tax rolls. I’m trying to give the county money,” Caskey said.

The sentiment of trying to help the county was echoed by Visitors Committee member Marilyn Patterson.

“We don’t want to cause the county any more grief. We want to help the county. We are very sensitive to all of this. We want to benefit everyone,” Patterson said.


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