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Manchester BOMA votes to assume responsibility for conference center; county needs to approve

Manchester’s board of Mayor and Alderman  passed a resolution Tuesday night to take responsibly for the operating losses for the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center.

The board voted 5-0 in favor of the resolution, which allows the mayor to take the proposal to the county government. Aldermen Chris Elam, Mark Messick, Bill Nickels, Bob Bellamy and Roxanne Patton all voted in favor. Alderman Ryan French abstained from voting.

The center has long been contentious on the local political scene for its yearly operating losses that have been split between the county and city governments. Advocates often argue the financial impact of the center goes much further than operating losses when accounting for hotel/motel tax and other local expenditures related to the building.

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According to the Manchester budget, the city paid out $195,668.99 to cover operating losses to the center for the fiscal year 2019-2020 (these numbers have yet to be audited). That means the county also paid an identical amount, bringing operating losses to approximately $391,337.98 for the year. By voting to assume responsibility, the city will now be on the hook for all of that loss every year – or for more or less, depending on how the center performs financially. 

Alderman Bob Bellamy said the city can cover that extra amount without increasing taxes or dipping into reserves because the debt service payments on the building end this year.

“We make our last payment on the debt of the building this upcoming June,” explained Bellamy. “We can take that money that was going to debt service every year and use it to cover the other part of those operating losses at the current level.”

According to Manchester Chief Financial Officer Bridget Anderson, the debt payment the city is due to pay this year is approximately $204,000. This will be the final payment for the building.

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The County government will still need to approve the new deal, a move that is expected.

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