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Paroquet Springs expansion possible after all

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By Alex Wimsatt

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Several months ago, it appeared that the expansion of the Paroquet Springs Conference Centre may not have been a dead issue but it was at least something that would be put on hold for awhile.

But when commissioners met for their June regular meeting it appeared there may be new hope for the proposed project, which would double the capacity of the McDowell Room to accommodate 300 people and include an outdoor terrace for special events. 

Despite being denied bond funds from the Kentucky League of Cities and US Bank, commissioners discussed allowing the conference center to move forward with the project on its own. 

Conference center director Vicki Downing stressed that nothing has been set in stone and no official action has been taken by the commission as of yet, but she said the commission was considering the possibility of constructing the project in two phases.

Under phase one the terrace off the McDowell Room would be constructed and any utilities needed under the terrace would be put into place. Downing said phase one could also include engineering, civil surveying, plans. 

Phase two, she said, would complete the project and double the size of the room. 

Doing the project in phases, Downing said, would allow the project to get underway while building costs are still low from the economic downturn. 

Additionally, building in phases would allow the conference center more time to pay for the project.

Downing said the commission was looking into whether it would be more economical to construct the project in phases or simply wait for bond funding and move forward with everything at the same time. 

In April, commissioner Tom Kelly explained that Downing and commissioners did everything in their power to get bond funds from the Kentucky League of Cities and US Bank for the project, but because of unforeseen constraints in the loan, they could not get funding. 

Commissioner James Watkins, who has spearheaded the project with Downing, said that under an agreement with KLC, which financed the construction of the conference center, said there had to be a letter of consent to place a lean on the property.  

Watkins said KLC would not issue the letter for reasons that could not be disclosed. 

The news came after Downing had submitted paperwork to KLC to see if the project was eligible for bond funding. Everything appeared in order. 

The convention center’s audit report released in January showed the facility doing, “better than most,” in the words of auditor Sandy Verbeck. In March alone conference center sales revenue improved by over 32 percent from March 2010. 

Even with the center’s clean bill of financial health and support from city and county officials for the project, which would have doubled the McDowell Room’s size, the expansion is at a stand still. 

Watkins said lenders were much more reluctant to loan money than they were in years past, but in time the conference centre may have better luck.

“We’re very hopeful. We’d really like to see the project move forward. I believe it’s a positive project for the center and for the community,” Watkins said.

In other business:

The commission unanimously approved the conference center and tourism budgets for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. 

Commissioners also approved the 2010-2011 year end budget. 

The two are very similar with only slight changes from the current fiscal year to the next. 

Total revenue for conference center and tourism are projected to rise slightly from $1.2 million in 2010-2011 to $1.3 million in 2011-2012. Total expenses are also expected remain roughly the same at $1.2 million.  

Motel tax revenue, which is split between the conference center and tourism with tourism receiving over 74 percent and the conference center receiving the rest, totaled $433,000 in 2010-2011 and is projected to be $445,000 in 2011-2012. 

With consistent increases in conference center sales over the past year, sales are expected to rise by nearly $45,000 in the coming fiscal year, projected to be $746,000 in 2011-2012.

While conference center sales are projected to rise in the new budget, cost of sales are projected to fall from the current fiscal year, $252,275 to $245,950. 

Downing said some items were cut from the budget, adding that the conference center was working to do more with less.

“Our goal is to always increase revenue, bring more people to Bullitt County and keep our costs to a minimum,” Downing said. 

Restaurant tax revenue, which is directed to the conference center, is projected to slightly decrease from $525,000 in 2010-2011 to $515,000 in 2011-2012. 

Gross profit, which is the money convention center and tourism have to work with for operating expenses, is projected to increase by just over $64,000 from the current fiscal year to just over $1 million in 2011-2012. 

*Two months after the commission approved renovating the Paroquet Springs Conference Centre lobby, conference center executive director Vicki Downing was happy to report that improvements were underway. 

Downing said a large flat screen television was recently installed in the front entrance to promote the conference center and local tourism. The television, Downing said, would display information about ongoing conference center events, area attractions and video highlighting Bullitt County tourism. 

Downing said there will also be a new reception desk to better accommodate visitors, along with new leather loveseats. 

“It’s a change to give the lobby new look and enhance what we offer,” she said. 

When the renovation was approved during the April regular meeting of the commission, Downing estimated the improvements would cost around $8,000, which will come out of the conference center’s capital asset improvement funds which was budgeted for $12,000 last year. 

Downing said the renovation may be completed by July 4, to greet visitors for the conference center’s Bullitt Blast celebration. 

*The next regular meeting of the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission will be held July 19 at Paroquet Springs Conference Centre, beginning at 4:30 p.m. 

The public is invited to attend.