Is it time to transform Jefferson City?

For two years, 300 volunteers have studied what a new sales tax in Jefferson City could do for the community. Now organizers campaigning for the tax say it's time to transform the Capital City.It could help with cleaning up the old state penitentiary along with renovations of it and the St. Mary's building once the new hospital is finished. And the money will help build a downtown conference center along with two dozen other possible projects according to organizers."It takes those ideas off the table and puts them into action," Campaign Co-Chairman Ken Hussey said.The half-cent sales tax question on the Feb. 7 ballot will provide $50 million over a ten year period. That income stream will allow the city to borrow $41 million up front for the Capital City's most ambitious facelift ever."It's a tax increase in a bad economy," Campaign Co-Chair Phil Freeman said. "We know that; we accept that; we understand that. But it is our charge to let the community know how important this is."An increase in the lodging tax approved last winter will build a convention center. Organizers of this campaign say the new money will provide an additional 30,000 square feet of exhibition space, which planners say is necessary."Time and time again they said, 'without exhibition space I cannot bring the conferences and events to Jefferson City that I would like to,'" Hussey said.Some technical questions remain unanswered. For example, the plan calls for the relocation of the execution chamber on the penitentiary grounds. That potentially could compromise historic site designation and the federal funding that goes with it.That is unclear at this time, but the action team felt strongly that needed to be moved," JC Chamber President Randy Allen said.The Transform Jefferson City campaign is launching a speakers bureau to answer questions at all kinds of public meetings over the next six weeks. Go to the campaign website to find out how you can book a speaker or answers to your questions.