Residents debate "barrel tax" in Jack Daniel's hometown

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 23, 2011 4:43 PM
Residents debate "barrel tax" in Jack Daniel's hometown

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - A lot more is smoldering in Lynchburg, Tennessee than this weekend's Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

Home to makers of the Tennessee sipping whiskey, Lynchburg is embroiled in a debate over whether they should be subject to a barrel tax to pay for what proponents are calling necessary infrastructure improvements.

Opponents of the proposal say the company does plenty already for the city and for Moore County.

"I'm opposed to it because I don't think that any government or any government entity should go after any corporation for a special tax just because they are very successful," said Kenneth Fly, owner of the Bar-B-Que Caboose.

He noted there were more than 20,000 tourists in town this weekend for what some call the Super Bowl of barbecue competitions.

"These people are spending this money and bringing tax money into this county because of this Jack Daniel's Barbecue, and the park is on land donated by Jack Daniel's," he said.

"They don't need to be the Sugar Daddy for the county."

Charles Rogers, a 76-year-old Moore County native who left for a career as a corporate executive before returning, is pushing for the right of residents to vote on whether Jack Daniel's should be subject to a barrel tax.

Rogers first raised the issue with the city council in 2007, but it was defeated.

This year the council approved a resolution asking its General Assembly delegation to introduce a private act that would enable Moore County residents to vote on such a tax.

Rogers said he thinks the distillery should pay for using the area's bucolic images to sell its product, images that have boosted tourism but put stress on the infrastructure.

If state lawmakers allowed a private act, it would take signatures from registered voters equal to 10 percent of the vote in the last presidential election to get the barrel tax proposal on the ballot.

Rogers argues it's worth the effort for improvements to area schools as well as the roads and bridges that are heavily used by tourists.

"When I moved back down here, I looked at the county's needs. Our sewage plant is on the verge of collapse," Rogers said.

(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by David Bailey and Ellen Wulfhorst)