Group sues over Lauderdale ag center, says funding is unconstitutional

Group sues over Lauderdale ag center, says funding is unconstitutional
From left, attorney Bill Love, plaintiff John Sutherland and Barry Morris gather for a press conference Wednesday at the Lauderdale County Government Building regarding a lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Agricultural Board (Source: Dan Busey - Times Daily)

FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - A group calling itself the Lauderdale County Citizens for Responsible Government is taking the Lauderdale County Agricultural Authority to court over plans to build a new ag center just outside Florence city limits.

According to our news partners at the Times Daily, the group filed an injunction to prevent construction from moving forward. John Sutherland, along with attorney Billy Love and economist Barry Morris said the project is unlikely to succeed and the funding for it is questionable.

Lauderdale County leaders extended a 2-cent gas tax to help pay for the project. Morris claims that tax brings in approximately $800,000 per year. The group claims that violates a state constitutional amendment that’s supposed to restrict how gas taxes are used. State Senator Tim Melson of Florence is the chairman of the ag authority. He says that amendment doesn’t apply here, but he couldn’t comment any further on pending litigation.

Another $1.2 million in funding will come from the Tennessee Valley Authority in the form of in-lieu-of-tax funds.

Plans call for a nearly 10,000-seat event center flanked to the east by an educational component and north by retail businesses. The main facility could have some 5,500 fixed seats and 2,000 bleacher seats. It also would have capacity for some 2,200 floor seats for events such as concerts. It would be located on Highway 72 between Beckman Marine Sales and Smokin’ on the Boulevard.

Morris called the project “an ill-conceived money-losing boondoggle”. He claimed that other towns have built similar facilities, and seen the revenue fall well below expectations.

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