After three hours of public comment from approximately 55 speakers, the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors voted Wednesday against the the proposed delay or termination of the contract with Lantz Construction to construct the Crossroads Field House at Rockingham Park on Route 33 East. We commend this decision.
The recreation center is currently under construction, funded by transient occupancy tax (TOT) money, which, by state law, must be spent “for tourism and travel, marketing of tourism or initiatives that, as determined after consultation with the local tourism industry organizations, including representatives of lodging properties located in the county, attract travelers to the locality, increase occupancy at lodging properties, and generate tourism revenues in the locality.”
Essentially, Rockingham’s plan is to build a facility that will serve local residents and tourists, paid for by visitors to Rockingham County. This information was not widely understood last spring when the project was approved and is still not well known. If construction was paused or cancelled, TOT dollars could not have been used for the roughly $7 million that it would cost to mothball the project. That money would have had to come from the general fund, paid for by Rockingham County taxpayers.
The process getting here could certainly have been better, but the decision facing the Rockingham County Board of Supervisors was different now than it was last year. Surely there are better and more fiscally responsible ways to spend $7 million than to pause or cancel a project approved by the Board of Supervisors last summer and currently underway.
As I said to the board in my public hearing comments, we cannot go back in time. Now that the project is underway, build us a good one.