Though the joint venture agreement on the coming Busy Bee location between the Holmes County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) and Holmes County Development will be severed, the County is still working out how exactly to honor a required 5% revenue payment to the Development Commission.

The next steps on how to pay the Development Commission under the terms of the agreement were discussed during an April 2 BOCC meeting. 

Specifically, the joint venture agreement–which attorneys for both sides on working on mutually ending–stipulated the County provide 5% of sales tax from the parcel.

“Is there a way we can do without County staff, each year, go through an arduous calculation to get that 5% number if we can do it?” County Attorney Nate Nolin said. “Is there a better route to honor the spirit of the agreement that was initially set out when that time comes?”

That timeframe is expected to last for 10 years.

The property, which is owned by the Development Commission, is expected to be sold to Busy Bee. Money generated from the site is expected to clear debt incurred on the County’s end with the project.

County Commissioner Clint Erickson, who made the motion for the 5%, said it “was good in theory without any thought behind it.”

“Going back and looking at it, I don’t know of any way you can go back and make that calculation,” Erickson said. “I have called other people, looked at this, reached out to other counties. I don’t know how you can truly make that calculation of truly 5% of what’s going on out there, especially with multiple businesses.”

The property, also known as Project Gateway, is anticipated to eventually have other retail and hotel businesses.

“There might be a way we can simplify an increase,” Nolin said. “The problem would be is this board will be a different board in 10 years. So will the Development Commission board. How can we guarantee or just commit to them that they’re going to see some of the fruits from their labor?”

Erickson said the payment would have to be similar to how the County appropriates its funds and budgets for certain departments and work.

“You would have to come up with a scale based on how many businesses are out there,” Erickson said. “If it’s one business, we appropriate this much. If it’s two businesses, we appropriate this much. I think it has to be done per business and we have to come up with a formula of what that business is selling and what they’re doing. That would be a lump sum at the end of the year.”

County Commissioners Brandon Newsom said the businesses will have to report to the County what they make.

“I know a small business can calculate that,” Newsom said. “A large business like that, are they going to give us that information so we can match that 5%? It’s going in a bubble and then it comes back to us, the state. That’s where you’re running into the issue with the 5%.”

What the County is looking for is a percentage based on what the business reports to the federal government, Erickson said.

“They report everything to the Internal Revenue Service, anyways,” Erickson said. “Each business does. If they do a million dollars worth of sales, what number would that be of a percentage?”

The County must get taxpayer money back, Erickson said. Listening to the Development Commission meeting where the property sale and end of the joint venture meeting were discussed was disappointing, he said.

“We are supposed to be here working together and that’s what was promised to us,” Erickson said. “I’m speaking as one commissioner. I’m not prepared to get into some legal battle. I’ve already contacted Tallahassee. That board falls under the Board of County Commissioners. All it takes is a resolution and you can dissolve that and we’ll just take assets back.” 

Newsom said he will be seeking taxpayer funds, “one way or another.”

Nolin said he doesn’t think things are far apart as far as reaching a resolution.

“We’ll get it resolved,” Nolin said. 

Development Commission Executive Director Joe issued a statement after being reached for comment following the BOCC meeting.

“Rest assured, the board members of HCDC – who are tax-paying volunteers – have full intention of holding up this organization’s commitments made in this joint venture. We hope the BOCC will hold themselves accountable to their part of this contract as well,” Rone said. “It is the mission of HCDC to create jobs and increase tax revenue to Holmes County. We work hard to create a brighter future with sufficient resources to run this county efficiently for decades to come.”

Rone further said he can understand why a county commissioner would suggest taking over the Development Commission’s “valuable assets” but “since 1961, this organization has been very successful in its own right with minimal county interference because of the way it is structured outside of the County’s reach.”

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