John Boothby, president of the Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber doesn’t “ have a dog in the fight” regarding the differing tax revenue projections, but added the chamber continues to support the civic center as an economic development project for Newton County.
“The numbers have to work to the satisfaction of the elected officials,” Boothby said.
Bouchillon questioned the wisdom of going along with the Merchant Capital projections and called all three of the projections too optimistic. He suggested the projections be double- checked and verified by an independent analyst who does not have a vested interest in seeing the project approved.
Covington Mayor Kim Carter said the initial projections contained flaws but added that Merchant Capital is “ a very well respected firm and the county has used them for a number of projects.”
“Those numbers have been reviewed by lots and lots of folks that do have financial background,” Carter said, adding that the most vocal opposition at this point to the projections has come from Bouchillon.
Carter said if it is the consensus of the Joint Task Force to hire an independent accountant to review all of the projections, then she will go along with their wish. The Joint Task Force is a collection of elected officials and community leaders helming the civic center project on the public’s end.
The county and the city have partnered with a private development firm, P. R. Hospitality, to build the hotel/ civic center. P. R. Hospitality is expected to spend $ 12 million building a high- end hotel.