December 6, 2017 10:37:49 AM
Thursday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and the Columbus City Council will meet at the Trotter Center at 9:30 a.m. in an effort to agree on a joint resolution to submit to the Legislature to extend the 2-percent restaurant tax. The tax is set to expire on July 1.
Neither body said how long the meeting is supposed to last, but the answer to that question should be obvious: As long as it takes.
It has taken more than a month for the two groups to make it to the table, four weeks of intransigence, one-sided proposals, harsh criticism, counter-proposals and, finally, an agreement to meet face-to-face.
Why it took so long to reach this point is a mystery.
It became clear early on the supervisors and council had a serious disagreement with how the revenues from the tax should be dispersed.
Supervisors favored keeping the formula as it has been since it was enacted almost 10 years ago with the revenue being divided between the Columbus-Lowndes Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
The council's plan called for earmarking 20 percent of the revenue -- about $400,000 -- to the city for its recreation department and money to complete the Terry Brown Amphitheater. The council plan also called for a change in the make-up of the CVB board, giving the city a majority of board appointments.
The logical next step would have been for the two groups to meet to hammer out an agreement since the tax could only go forward with a joint resolution. Without it, the tax goes away.
Instead, the discussion ended before it began.
Thursday's meeting is likely the last, best chance to do what should have been done a month ago.
But simply meeting is just a means to an end and, in itself, is not a solution, as we learned from the last time the two bodies met.
About a year ago, supervisors announced their plans to dissolve the inter-local agreement with the city that governed the Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Authority.
Supervisors voted narrowly to form their own parks department. At the city's request, supervisors met with the council, but it was clear from the start the meeting was not an attempt to find common ground, but to announce the county's unilateral decision to dissolve the parks partnership.
That is not an option Thursday.
No matter how anyone believes the restaurant revenue should be allocated, the bottom line is that the two groups must leave the Trotter Center in full agreement on all points. The stakes -- roughly $2 million in annual revenue -- are simply too high.
Whatever you may say, that revenue is a great resource for our community, city and county alike.
Supervisors and council members need to understand the gravity of what is at stake on Thursday and act accordingly. That means coming to terms on a joint resolution that will preserve the tax.
That is the only acceptable outcome, and it is the civic duty of every single official at Thursday's meeting to make sure that happens.
No matter how long it takes.