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COLUMN: Man with plan strikes blow to restaurant tax

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By BEN CARLSON

Column as I see ’em ...

It seems that each time spring rolls around someone kicks the anthill that houses those who support a restaurant tax to promote tourism and sends them scurrying again all over town, looking for bread crumbs.

While I certainly don’t mind reprising my roll as chief exterminator and busting a fresh can of Raid, it’s good to know that there’s a man with a plan besides me willing to prove the folly of that tax.

For those just joining us, the tourism folks got all hopped up a couple of years ago and pitched the idea of a restaurant tax to the city council. Thankfully, council members saw right through it and tabled it after several rather embarrassing public performances by those trying to get it passed.

Anyway, the man with a plan is Eddie Carey of Carey’s Towing fame. Carey, apparently without the blessing of anyone in particular, organized a professional truck and tractor pull last fall that attracted 3,500 people, many from out of town.

No, he didn’t pocket the proceeds. The money he raised was donated to local 4-H students.

On Friday and Saturday, Carey has the pullers back in town for another event at the county park, this time to raise money to put a fence around the motorsports park along with buying new bleachers.

Again, he didn’t go hat-in-hand to the city council or fiscal court, begging for a handout to get this done. Nor did he lean on the city council to create a 3 percent restaurant tax that would extract $300,000 from local restaurants and plop it into the hands of a tourism authority that rarely meets due to a lack of a quorum and when it does, spends most of its time crying the blues because the only funding it gets comes from a hotel room tax at Best Western.

Without more money, they say, there’s nothing they can do to promote tourism in Anderson County.

Fortunately, Eddie Carey is single-handedly putting that tired song out to pasture, hopefully this time for good.

From what I hear, Carey has no intentions of slowing down, either. He intends to make Lawrenceburg a regular stop for this event, which draws participants from surrounding states. Proceeds from future pulls, he said, will be used to make ongoing improvements to the county park including, hopefully, lighting the soccer fields.

So the next time someone whispers sweet nothings in your ear about the benefits of a restaurant tax, offer to buy them a ticket to Eddie Carey’s next pulling event and show them how attracting crowds to Lawrenceburg doesn’t take tax dollars, just some common sense and an event people want to see.

Speaking of common sense, I had an interesting chat the other day with the mayor about the idea of starting a full-blown farmers market at the Lawrenceburg Green location behind Town & Country Bank.

The whole thing would be fairly simple, put that property to great use and give folks yet another reason to visit downtown.

From what I’ve been told, there’s a good chance that some of the local tobacco settlement money could be approved to build a pavilion on that site, which makes sense given that that money was set aside to help farmers grow something besides the golden leaf.

I offered the mayor whatever support she needs to get this done, and hope that others jump on the bandwagon, too.

I know there’s not a full-time tourism director job or restaurant tax that would result from this idea, but that bandwagon certainly has enough seats for you tourism folks, if you’d care to climb aboard.

E-mail Ben Carlson at bcarlson@theandersonnews.com.