There have always been questions as to how the $24 million DE Turf athletic field complex ended up with an $18 million interchange south of Dover.
The justification at the time was the gas tax-funded project would spur overall economic growth in Kent County.
Kent faces challenges that range from a casino industry facing intense competition, decades-long cuts in manufacturing jobs and a state government that keeps a sizable number of jobs to the north in New Castle County.
The county has long been looking for the next big thing. One idea that came to life was DE Turf, an outdooryouth sports complex that would capture the dollars of well-heeled parents who travel to tournaments as family bonding or in preparation for college careers.
The next big thing
The interchange helped the process andaccording to a subscribers, only News Journal piece so did the brother of one of its board members.
John Paradee, brother of State Sen. Trey Paradee, is a member of the board of DE Turf. John has also been involved in a proposed development near the athletic complex and the interchange.
Trey Paradee successfully sponsored an unusual Kent County room tax bill that passed the General Assembly.
The bill differs from others in the state since the county is authorized to collect an up to three percent tax from municipalities. Proceeds would directly to DE Turf. By contrast, New Castle County’s tax limits collections to unincorporated areas, with the county pocketing all of the funds.
No action to authorize the tax transfer has yet been taken by Levy Court, Kent’s governing body. Dover did respond with a largely symbolic five-tenths of one percent room tax that rise to 1.5 percent by 2022.
According to the story, Paradee says he had no knowledge of his brother’s involvement, even though a 2014 story of a proposed project near DE Turf quoted the brother’s comments. The project, which has not materialized at the time, was used in justifying the building of an interchange amid concerns that DE Turf would not get off the ground.
In examining the issue, News Journal took the novel strategy of asking the legislators who voted for the bill if they would have changed their minds had they had known about the situation.
Some legislators admitted to having second thoughts, although many said they still would have voted for the bill. Others did not respond or failed to see a potential problem.
Left unanswered is the question of levying a hotel tax that would benefit only one entity. There is also the issue of the state funding road improvements on behalf of one nonprofit client that did not kick in any funds to help pay the bill.
Tax would bring in marketing dollars
DE Turf officials say the money would allow the facility to better market traveling youth sports tournaments that would fill up hotel rooms. Others have suspicions that it will end up being a way to manage a sizable debt load borne by the facility.
One thing is clear in this muddy situation. Once again, we have a General Assembly that does not do its homework in its haste to pass legislation that should have raised red flags and cried out for an honest debate.
Have a productive Tuesday. I hope you had a chance to enjoy a beautiful fall day yesterday.
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