The state of Kentucky has suspended the tourism-related tax rebate for Ark Encounter because the attraction is now run by a non-profit group, violating the terms of the deal. It’s very likely a non-profit because the for-profit attraction had to pay a “safety fee” to the city of Williamstown and wanted to get out of it.
We now know some additional details about the story… and none of it makes Ark Encounter look good.
Deborah Yetter of the Courier-Journal included several interesting points in a recent article:
1) The suspension can be reversed.
If the property is deeded back to the for-profit entity within 30 days, the tax incentive will be restored, said Laura Brooks, spokeswoman for the tourism cabinet.
It’s entirely possible that Ark Encounter had no idea what it had set into motion when it sold itself to… itself. But now that the critics have weighed in and the suspension has occurred, maybe the Creationists will realize they screwed up and return Ark Encounter back to its original for-profit status. By doing do, they’d still lose money through the safety fee, but they’d make more from the rebate.
They have a couple of weeks to make that decision.
2) Answers in Genesis isn’t saying anything about its strategy.
He couldn’t say?!
Earlier in the week, Mike Zovath, chief action officer with Answers in Genesis and principal of Crosswater Canyon, couldn’t say why the property was transferred to a nonprofit.
Zovath knows exactly why Ark Encounter was sold to Crosswater Canyon. The fact that he’s not explaining the decision means he either knows how bad this safety fee avoidance looks or he’s completely in the dark about the Ark he helps run.
Neither answer makes him look good.
3) Answers in Genesis doesn’t give a damn about Williamstown.
It’s no secret that the rising tide Ken Ham promised the city has only lifted his own boat. The local economy is suffering and people are frustrated. And what did Zovath have to say about the current controversy?
“However this works out, we want to do things that are in the best interest of the Ark Encounter, Crosswater Canyon and everybody that’s involved here and works here,” he told The Cincinnati Enquirer.
So he wants to do right by his company, his company, his buddies, and the anti-gay Creationists they employ.
As for the city of Williamstown? Who knows where they are on the priority list. But it’s nowhere near the top.
4) Answers in Genesis is giving Williamstown the silent treatment.
… Williamstown Mayor Rick Skinner fears the move [to non-profit status] was taken to avoid paying taxes.
“We’re skeptical of their thinking and their lack of communication right now,” Skinner said.
You would think Ark Encounter becoming a non-profit entity would result in some big conversations with the people who’d be most affected by it, including the mayor of the city that gave you perk after perk so you’d build the Ark there. Nope. They’re not talking.
Williamstown is left to make decisions without knowing what the biggest company in town is even thinking.
I’ll admit I’ve never run a large company, much less one worth over $100 million. But of all the ways to run a company, I’m positive alienating the people who run the local government isn’t the way to do it.
Hell, at this point Williamstown should just up the safety fee to $1 per ticket. Why not? It’s time they got more of their investment back.