By Anniston Star
Let’s start with the numbers. The Gulf Coast states will get billions of dollars to compensate for damages caused by the BP oil spill. Alabama will get around $85 million.
Alabama will spend about $8.5 million, 10 percent, on similar projects.
The rest of the money will build a convention center and hotel at Gulf State Park to replace what was lost in a hurricane that hit eight years before the BP spill.
The Alabama coast has wanted and needed a convention center for years. The one the hurricane destroyed was small and inadequate.
Loath to lose that convention money, state officials have come up with a number of schemes to build an Alabama equivalent, none of which worked out – so far.
The logic to support this plan is pretty straightforward. This is a restoration project – a project to restore an economy damaged by the spill.
It will also mean jobs – jobs in the building and jobs in the operating once it is completed, not to mention tax revenue. In Alabama today, these are no small considerations.
Critics point out that while a convention center and lodge sound nice, they will be built on one of the few remaining stretches of undeveloped coastline in the state.
A lodge for conventioneers may price regular Alabamians out of the market. So in a sense, the vacation habitat of average Alabamians is also in danger.
Nor is it a sure thing that the federal court settlement allows the money to be spent on such an undertaking.
Put simply, this is not something that should be rushed. All interested parties should have their say and the final decision should be transparent and carefully documented so that the public will know where the money will be spent.