Letter: Food & Beverage tax should be nixed because Regional Wellness Center isn’t needed

To get the point out of the way, Jasper Common Council should not vote to implement a Food and Beverage sales tax. Why? To be honest, the project is not worth it. It is not that the project does not sound nice, it does. It is just not needed in Jasper or Dubois County. I could bring up the tax itself, but the point of the tax is the project, so if the project is not worth it then the tax itself is a waste of ~$500k/year taxpayers’ dollars which could be better spent on thousands of other ideas personal, and community-based. 

The project to date has been (my summary of what I have read and been told with personal interjections): 

  1. Health and Wellness (kitchen!) 
  2. Kids are bored and need something to do (kids are not in after-school activities already 24/7 so why not more distractions) 
  3. Schools need more gyms (oh, ok…) 
  4. Indoor pool… err, winter swimming?? 
  5. Quality of Life! 
  6. Executives won’t move to our area without this project. (eye roll) 

Ok, I went overboard, but the points I have made are not mine but what people tell me, but I must concur a bit. My official opinion is the building is not needed. If Jasper and Dubois County were poorer and had only one gym per school and no outdoor areas, you could make a strong Quality of Life argument for this project. The thing is, we are not poor, and we are overflowing with indoor and outdoor activity spaces. Jasper alone has 11 indoor school gyms and around a half dozen outdoor courts. There are multiple parks with large open spaces and multiple ballfields. Adding 4(!) more indoor gym spaces have no return on investment. Then it must be about the indoor pool, something the YMCA has wanted for years. My response to that is… build it in Ferdinand. Not everything has to be in Jasper, and this would be a huge boost for Dubois County and drive growth countywide. 

I push countywide because, for those who don’t read census data, we are seeing the baby boomer population bump cycling through the county, and the youth population is not going to cover the working-age numbers over the next 15 years without some sort of immigration boost. As a county of ~40k, we need countywide projects to continue the current quality of life standards and hold firm to what we are… a darn great rural county to live in. To continue to be great, we do need quality-of-life projects, just not what the Jasper mayor and council are considering. 

What is Quality of Life? In my summary of Ball State University research, Quality of Life has defined parameters. In order: 

  1. School quality. Not sports, but education quality being the main factor. Research shows that easily 85-90% of all quality-of-life projects should be about school quality. 
  2. Distant second place is safety. Low crime. Low law enforcement abuse of power. Safety of the individual to leave in peace from their neighbor and the government. 
  3. In a further distant third is Infrastructure and Recreation. Recreation is where this $35 million project falls in my opinion. 

In short, Quality of Life is just part of what drives communities to exist at the levels they are at. Places appeal to people based on what they naturally offer and how well communities sustain them. 

So back to the project and now the tax. The council on Wednesday is going to be faced with the last vote on the sales tax, even though the projects have no grants or the tax referendum which funds the major of the project. For some reason we must jump the gun and pass a sales tax that the council in February stated they would not pass without an approved referendum, look it up. There is no sane reason for this tax to go into effect now as the project does not exist. The whole tax idea should be put on hold for 15 months until a referendum can be voted on at the very least. Ferdinand residents should be asking the YMCA why an indoor can’t be in their town too. 

The Jasper Common Council have stated they want the public to contact them with their opinions. You got to call, email, and talk to them. You and I both know this tax will hang forever just like the EDIT income tax. I would add that if you live outside of Jasper but work (and eat) in Jasper, you should probably give them your opinion too. Remember, this is $500k/year for as long as we all live not going into businesses, homes, families, education, and other county supporting activities. Is this project worth it, and therefore should the sales tax be approved? No, not really. Now go and let the council know your opinion. 

Adrian Engelberth, Jasper