With another unanimous vote, Lake Winnepesaukah now enjoys the county's approval for a one-time tax abatement, which will come to approximately $85,050.
Commissioner Jim Cutler praised the family-owned enterprise, saying, “Lake Winnie is a real asset to Catoosa County.”
At the development authority's meeting one day earlier, authority member Scott Smith had said, “We have an obligation to not only help bring in new business but to provide assistance to our older, established businesses, as well.”
The park is located on Lakeview Drive in Rossville and a January ground-breaking for the water park is anticipated.
The two boards voted unanimously in favor of the tax break, after husband and wife Tommy and Tennyson Dickinson, members of the family that owns the amusement park, told the authority that even after the 3-percent relief in that first year, the county would still reap $17,930 in new tax revenue. This is after the water park is slated to generate $102,980 in total taxes that first year.
Tennyson Dickinson said the park would be ready to open May 24, just in time for Memorial Day (May 27).
Tommy Dickinson said, “We are trying to do this in a first-class manner, so dollars are very, very precious. This is an almost 88-year-old family business. It's never asked anything of anybody.”
The $6.3 million in funds for the project are all private money.
The sales tax relief applies only to manufactured goods used in the building of the water park. It will not include site preparation, power, water, and so on.
According to Skip Patty, attorney for Catoosa County, the bill itself must be approved by the county’s Board of Commissioners and then receive an OK at the state level. It carries a sunset provision, which means it would expire in 2014, making it a one-year abatement only.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis from Chickamauga is signed on and ready to carry the bill at the state level, according to the Dickinsons. Tennyson Dickinson said the senator did not want to proceed without the county's approval. The county's abatement is contingent upon approval at the state level. For the state's Economic Development Commissioner to approve the project he would have to determine it as having significant regional impact.
The park is seeking the abatement under House Bill 386, which became law last May and seeks to give tax abatement at the state and county level from sales and local use taxes. The Dickinsons were not sure, but this is believed to be the first instance of the bill being used.
The members of the development authority were told by the Dickinsons that the new park will create about 55 new seasonal jobs, along with possibly up to three permanent positions.
According to a financial impact statement prepared by University of Tennessee-Chattanooga economics professor William Legg, the county would see a net gain over five years of $1.2 million, this coming after the initial tax relief period, which might last anywhere from six months to a year, according to Tommy Dickinson.
With the commissioners’ approval of the 3-percent tax break, Sen. Mullis is now prepared to ask the state legislature to give up its 4-percent share of property taxes.
Tennyson Dickinson told the development authority that, according to an analysis of the zip codes of park visitors, 26 percent of all park visitors come from beyond a 60-mile radius of the park. The Dickinsons also said that the park is in the process of putting up signs at the Cloud Springs Road — or Costco — exit on I-75.
“This a great marriage of venues between the dry park and the water park,” Tommy Dickinson said. “If you get hot — go over to the water park.”
The original park was revolved around the lake and a log flume ride, now called the boat chute. At one time the park had the second largest swimming pool in the southeast.
“It is appropriate that, since we came from water in the beginning, we are now returning to a water-based attraction in our next phase,” said Tennyson Dickinson.
Lake Winnepesaukah will be a one price/one ticket attraction for both venues.