Williamstown (KY) Is Expecting Ken Ham to Sue Over a Proposed “Safety Fee”

Williamstown (Kentucky) officials are bracing for a lawsuit from Answers in Genesis over a proposed “safety fee” that could cost the Creationists $700,000.

It’s just another example of how Ark Encounter is hurting the city.

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As I posted before, the city has instituted a new “safety fee” to cover the cost of necessary expenses (like fire trucks) that will make the city a safer place for tourists. The fee involves a $0.50/ticket charge on all admission-based businesses in the city. If Ark Encounter gets an estimated 1.4 million visitors over the next year, we’re talking $700,000. The city only expects to receive $715,000 overall, so Ark Encounter’s contribution is vital.

But a couple of weeks ago, we learned that Answers in Genesis was trying to get out of paying this cost by saying they were a religious ministry, exempt from all such taxes.

There were two problems with that argument:

1) They constantly said they were a for-profit attraction when they were applying for tax breaks in previous years. This is a legal distinction that had to be settled.

2) They were hurting the very city that gave up so much in giving them a place to build the Ark. This was purely ethical, but it showed you the hearts of the people behind the scenes.

So the Williamstown City Council proposed the fee, Ken Ham‘s team said they weren’t going to pay it, and city officials told Ham they had to pay it because they were a for-profit attraction.

“None of us can pick or choose the obligations we wish to obey that benefit us or deny those obligations that may impose a small burden to benefit the greater good. In the end, it is the price we pay to live and enjoy a civilized and moral society. Ark Encounter is a for-profit limited liability company entity that allowed, or permitted, it to be eligible for various development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit status,” [Williamstown City Attorney Jeff] Shipp wrote in the letter. “The city looks forward to continuing to work and cooperate with the Ark Encounter in the future, while balancing the health, safety and welfare of the residents, businesses and visitors of the city of Williamstown, Kentucky.”

[Answers in Genesis Co-Founder Mark] Looy said the Ark Encounter officials still feel it should be exempt from the fee since the attraction is generally recognized as a religious establishment, and because it is wholly owned by Crosswater Canyon, a non-profit entity.

“We seek to pay our fair share when it comes to a safety fee assessment recently instituted by the city of Williamstown. We have conveyed that sincere sentiment to Williamstown’s leadership,” Looy said.

The Williamstown City Council met on Monday to discuss their next steps in a closed-door executive session.

We don’t have details of that meeting but we do know they’re sticking to their guns and expecting a lawsuit from Ken Ham’s team.

[Mayor Rick] Skinner said the council expects the Ark Encounter to file a lawsuit, but has no hard evidence yet that they will do so. He added that he originally expected representatives from the Ark to be present at the meeting, but they emailed him in the days prior informing him they would not be.

The Ark Encounter officials would have been allowed to discuss confidential proposals during the executive session with council had they attended, Skinner said.

“They’re here to stay, and we’re here to stay,” Skinner said. “It’s just a bump in the road that hopefully we can get worked out.”

Just imagine how this could play out. If Answers in Genesis doesn’t want to pay the safety fee, they might end up suing the city of Williamstown to get out of it.

How many possible ways can these Creationists screw over the city that bent over backwards to give them a home?

Williamstown gave Ark Encounter a $62 million interest free loan and a 75% break in property taxes over the next 30 years. They were promised jobs galore… only to be told later that those jobs were only available to other fundamentalist Christians. For those who got jobs, Ham takes $2 of every $100 in pre-tax wages from their paychecks to help repay his loans. There’s also the more than $18 million available in tax rebates from the state of Kentucky depending on attendance numbers over the next decade.

In short, the taxpayers of Kentucky (and Williamstown specifically) have given gift after gift to Answers in Genesis to help them build their Monument to Misinformation… and Ken Ham is thanking them with a potential lawsuit so his companies don’t have to chip in their fair share for fire trucks and police cars.

When will the people of Williamstown realize they’ve been duped? We’ve been saying it for years, but maybe now they’ll finally figure it out.

(Thanks to Dan for the link)

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