JC conference center opposition hits roadblock

A Jefferson City-based group that opposes plans for construction of a conference center in Jefferson City has run up against some legal obstacles in their attempt to circulate petitions.

"Citizens Against Convention Center" leader Tim Stallman said his opposition to a proposed convention center is simple.

"We don't think that the city government should be involved in private business, period." Stallman said. "We also believe that citizens will ultimately pay a subsidy when it loses money and needs repairs."

Members of "Citizens Against Convention Center" recently attempted to file two petitions, one of which would would allow voters to decide whether or not to lower the lodging tax from four to three percent.

The other petition would have prohibited the city from appropriating money towards the construction of a conference center.

However, the rules of the city charter do not allow such petitions to be filed.

Article IX section 9.1. in the Jefferson City charter explains that the city's qualified voters are not allowed to file petitions pertaining to appropriation of money, levy of taxes, or zoning. On these grounds, the city struck down Stallman's petitions.

City officials said developers plan to have their final proposals on the table within the next three weeks for two potential sites for a conference center.

One location is adjacent to the Capital Mall; the other is currently a parking lot off Broadway near the Rex M. Whitton expressway.

Hilpert said the construction of a conference center would not affect the average taxpayer. He said, only tax revenue from people staying at Jefferson City hotels would be used to fund a portion of the project.

Stallman expressed fears that the city will end up paying more in the future.

"The convention center will lose money, and eventually the city and the hotels will come to the taxpayer and ask for more money," Stallman said.

In the meantime, Hilpert says city officials still want to hear from everyone on the plans, before those plans become bricks.