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$1 surcharge issue not dead

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District 46 State Rep. Mark Pody continues to say that he believes Wilson County Government can impose a $1 surcharge on all tickets sold to events at the James E. Ward Agricultural Center – without the approval of the General Assembly via a private act – as long as the money goes toward maintenance of the facility.

However, County Attorney Mike Jennings is not so sure that would be legal, based on the opinion issued by the Tennessee State Attorney General on April 7.

“My initial reading of this, and I’ve gone back and read it again today, is that we cannot assess that fee,” Jennings said.

That differs from Pody’s understanding, which is “if the County Commission were to re-allocate the current fees they give to the Ag Center, they could charge a $1 fee for maintenance of the center and take the money they currently give to it and put that toward the construction of the Expo Center.”

“They just have to readjust the pocket that it’s coming from. They are allowed to charge a $1 fee (per ticket) for maintenance.”

Jennings said while he doesn’t get that from the Attorney General’s opinion, he added that if the county commission were to ask him to seek out a new AG’s opinion to clarify what Pody is saying, he would be happy to do it.

“My concern is whatever we do that we be legal, and before I can recommend that we jump out and assess this $1 fee on our own as a county, somebody is going to have to prove to me that we have the legal basis to do so. I don’t see it in this attorney general’s opinion.”

Additionally, Jennings said, “My concern is that if this is true, then why did Coffee County, where the Bonnaroo music festival is held each year, feel the need to get a private act?”

When Pody was asked what the difference was in the two situations, he said that it was his understanding that “Coffee County did not have to get a private act. They chose to get one.”

However, Jennings said, “I think the AG’s opinion comes closer to supporting what we were trying to do through a private act.”

The Attorney General’s opinion may be read in its entirety at http://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/op/2014/op14-43.pdf

Amelia Morrison Hipps is a correspondent for The Wilson Post. She may be reached at amelia@downhomepolitics.com.

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County Attorney Mike Jennings, Expo Center, Mark Pody, surcharge, Wilson County Commission
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