Tax would be harmful to AOAA
To the editor: I am writing to express my thoughts about the recent moves by certain members of the Coal Township Board of Commissioners to enact an amusement tax before the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area (AOAA) is even up and running.
Through the tireless efforts of citizens, authority members, who are unpaid volunteers, and Northumberland County, which has made this land available and expended considerable time, effort and political capital, we have convinced the state to invest in excess of $3 million in this project to date, with more to come. Considering the short amount of time since the formation of the AOAA Authority, it has been an unqualified success and the authority has exceeded all expectations. There is no other project in Northumberland County, or any of the surrounding counties, that has the AOAA's potential to bring investment and tourism to the coal region.
Coal Township Commissioners Craig Fetterman and George Zalar, who are clearly pushing this tax, have taken a back seat to their fellow commissioners on supporting the AOAA. They have done nothing to aid or work personally on this project, other than agree to accept a free, newly constructed road provided to the township with state and federal dollars, pushed for by their fellow commissioners who have taken the time to invest in and understand the project.
So what is their first real personal interaction with the AOAA? To take swift action to plunder it as a golden goose and to mislead their counterpart into thinking they are "just gathering information." If so, why not just request public input at your monthly public meetings? Why not hold a special public meeting to gather input? Why immediately publish the enactment of an ordinance - which, one would assume, they directed their solicitor to waste his valuable time drafting - if they are only gathering public opinion? All of this is clearly to avoid making the tough budgetary decisions for which they were elected.
Implementing this tax at this time in the early life of the AOAA can negatively impact the entire region. We were elected to be pro-business and do what is best for economic development in our area. What does this tell potential employers and investors?
I am hopeful, and fully expect, the AOAA to be a success. I expect there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when revenues from the AOAA and the ancillary businesses and benefits it creates will be pumped back into local communities, perhaps even through an amusement tax. There are benefit rides for the township currently scheduled that would likely raise more money than the revenue from an amusement tax.
I would also point out that Reading Coal Company has been selling ATV passes for a decade, tax free. Reading has not invested anything into the township's infrastructure and hasn't attempted to manage its land or its riders, yet it has been permitted by Coal Township to avoid any amusement tax.
Lastly, I would like to reach out to newly elected Coal Township board member Paul Leshinski. I would ask you to consider whether imposing an amusement tax at this time would encourage further investment in the project and whether it is in the long-term best interest of the township and the coal region in general. There is a reason the other four townships who have land within the AOAA have not moved to impose an amusement tax. Please take the time to research the ramifications of a decision to impose this tax at this time.
Northumberland County Commissioner