Hotel owners in Grayson haven't been paying their taxes, and the tourism board is planning to take action to rectify that.

None of the Grayson hotels have paid their taxes in the last six months or more, according to Grayson Tourism and Convention Commission chair Mindy Woods-Click.

The city ordinance governing hotel and motel taxes, passed in 2017, requires the establishments to collect taxes and file a written monthly report, but none of the local businesses have been doing so. As a result, tourism is taking action to place liens on the businesses, as permitted by law.

The tourism commission was actually within their power to place the liens on the property months ago, but they held off hoping that the businesses would catch up on what they owe.

The ordinance requiring the tax, ordinance number 5-17, requires the taxes to be paid by the 20th day of each month. Failure to pay the tax on time results in a ten percent penalty as well as a fine of $100 per day until the tax is paid. Failure to pay for 30 days after the penalty kicks in opens an opportunity for the commission to lien against the property, with the penalty of $100 a day continuing until the entire tax and penalties are paid in full.

While the commission hadn't yet taken that action, despite the hotels being deep in arrears, they are now poised to do so. This action comes as the Grayson Park Board, which relies in part on tourism related funds to operate, discusses further plans for value engineering the Grayson Area Sports Park Complex and delaying some of the amenities planned for the park as a cost saving measure.

While the park board has accepted or is considering bids on most of the park's features, they still haven't bid out certain key features of the park, such as the amphitheater, sprayground and skate area.

While part of the amphitheater construction has already been covered with the boards concrete bids, they still need to take bids on the purchase and installation of a canopy for the amphitheater. The costs for finishing the amphitheater are estimated at around $150,000, while the cost for the sprayground water play area is estimated at $200,000.

Operation of the park will not be an issue, as the board has been setting aside funds in a separate account for salaries and other operation costs. But they currently have only $1.6 million left to complete the park, which has lead to discussions about what amenities they can delay until more funds are available and what amenities they should proceed with.

Park board member Mark Strother suggested to the board that they first look at amenities that are already available elsewhere in the community, such as tennis courts, and delay build out on those parts of the park while focusing on those that the community does not yet have, such as the sprayground and skate park area.

Project manager John Brammer also recommended moving ahead with all infrastructure for those other elements, even if they won't be built right away. That action, he said, would save the park money in the long run as they wouldn't have to "tear up" concrete and asphalt that had already been laid to add that infrastructure at a later date.

Brammer also presented bids to the board on other phases of the park and told the board that he would work with the builders to value engineer their individual portions of the park to get costs lower than those presented. Rather than end up with what he called "apples to oranges" comparisons, however, he had all contractors bid on the original specs for the park, which the board has already determined are too high, so he could get a true image of what contractors offer.

For example, one bid for fencing came in at $417,000 while another came in at $340,000. The higher bid, however, including all taxes as well as padding for fence posts and other costs, while the lower bid did not. Brammer said that once he talks with the contractor about value engineering the fence installation, by using cheaper materials, he can get that bid lower.

"I'm confident we can get 50 or 60 thousand lower," Brammer told the park board.

The board moved to accept bids on concrete, plumbing, electrical and fencing. The plumbing contract was awarded to Smith & Son, the fencing bid to Tri-State Fencing, lighting and electrical work was awarded to J&K. Smith & Son's bid for plumbing came in at $225,000 while J&K's bid for electrical and lighting was just shy of one million dollars, coming in at $939,400.

Like with the fencing bid from Tri-State, Brammer expressed his confidence in being able to get the actual costs down lower, mostly through the use of cheaper materials than were called for in the original specifications for the park.

"There will be a review (of costs) before we sign any contracts," Brammer told the board.

Brammer also recommended that the board hold on asphalt installation. He says he wants to make sure the ground is very well compacted before the asphalt is laid, so that it doesn't crack as the ground under it continues to settle. He noted that on another job site they had an area of asphalt where the soil had passed compaction tests, but that it later cracked because of all the rain the area experienced. With all the rain the city has already experienced this year, he said, he'd rather wait on that part of the project rather than risk a repeat of the type of cracking he's seen on other projects.

Contact the writer at jwells@journal-times.com.

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