Kingston hotels oppose Roane State proposal

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By Cindy Simpson

A proposal by Roane State President Gary Goff asking for area lodges to help fund the  Henry-Stafford Exposition Center is already meeting opposition.

A letter from Kingston hotel owners said Goff plans to ask to raise the hotel occupancy tax in Harriman and Roane County in order to help fund the center.

The letter to Kingston City Council members and the Roane County Commission says the Expo is an asset to the community. but its benefits are to Harriman lodging, not Kingston’s.

“We personally see just a very limited amount of business from the Expo,” said Chad Jala, operator of Kingston Super 8 Hotel.

“On the other hand, Kingston’s general economy and lodging industry sees virtually no benefit from the Roane State Exposition Center. Harriman offers 366 hotel rooms, which is more than sufficient to satisfy the lodging needs of Roane Exposition Center Attendees,” according to the letter.

Jala said that the 19.5 percent that people pay to stay in a hotel in Kingston is already much higher than neighboring Harriman at 14.5 percent and Knoxville at 17.25 percent.

Kingston hotel owners feel Harriman should be responsible for funding assistance at the Expo Center.

The letter, which also includes the signature of Paul Cowell, the owner of Whitestone Country Inn located far outside the city of of Kingston, states Harriman hotels have the advantage of a lower occupancy tax, proximity to the Expo and a bevy of chain restaurants that Kingston lacks.