The Grant County News should be on newsstands now. Here is my guest column:
EXCLUSIVE TO THE GCN—STATEMENT FROM KEN HAM, CEO OF ANSWERS IN GENESIS, owner of the Ark Encounter.
There has been an enormous amount of misinformation, misunderstanding, and outright untruths spread by many media, bloggers, and others in regard to the Ark Encounter—specifically, the recent issue concerning the safety tax imposed by the Williamstown city council.
I want to go on record and make these statements exclusively to the Grant County News:
The Ark Encounter has never stated we would not pay a safety tax. In communicating frequently with the city over the months, we even proposed that a fee be capped at a half million dollars per year, a reasonable amount. Now, we do believe there were (and still are) some issues with the way the ordinance is worded, and we do have concerns about the fairness of such a tax. You see, the city ordinance makes the Ark Encounter bear almost the entire load for the increased funding for Williamstown’s police, fire, and EMS budget.
We have tried to negotiate what we believe is a fair approach to the safety tax. However, and while at the time of writing to the Grant County News there are unresolved issues, we have agreed to pay the safety tax. In fact, we have been adding 50 cents to each ticket purchase since July 1, as required by the ordinance and in anticipation of this expense.
We wish to point out, too, that when it comes to medical emergency calls, for which the local EMT provider responds, there is a user fee that is charged to people's personal insurance for that cost. Yet, we still offered to pay up to $500,000 a year into the safety fund, which the city rejected. As it filed for an exemption as a religious non-profit as permitted in the ordinance, the Ark was not doing so to avoid paying its fair share, as some reporters have suggested.
We are thankful that even with the enormous number of people who have visited the Ark from around the world, calls for emergency services—shared by both Williamstown and Dry Ridge—have been relatively small. On average for the year, it’s been about 2 calls per week, with the majority being in the busiest 6 months of our operation.
It’s a complex matter that many people find difficult to understand, but the Ark Encounter operates as a non-profit because it is wholly owned by a non-profit. And it is a religious organization. The Ark Encounter is owned ultimately by Answers in Genesis. There has been much false speculation about this matter, but there were no ulterior motives on our part at all. In fact, to resolve any issues over the recent change in title for the Ark Encounter property, the property has been conveyed back to the Ark Encounter, LLC and the deed has been recorded.
The Ark Encounter has brought over 1 million people into the county since we opened, and indications are that many more than that will visit in the second year. Dry Ridge has been greatly impacted and benefitted by this influx of tourists, and that’s because of the existence of name-brand hotels, restaurants, and other tourist-related facilities. We continue to encourage the city of Williamstown to aggressively court major hotel brands and restaurants, so that this city will also be greatly impacted. We anticipate that as a result of the growing Ark Encounter attendance, hotels, restaurants and other tourist-related facilities will locate in Williamstown, which will add to the growth and development of the city.
I’m thankful to the Grant County News. It has done its best to report on the facts in regard to the Ark Encounter and the safety assessment fee. However, I warn readers that much of the media (and many bloggers and secular groups) have not represented the safety-tax situation accurately, including failing to report our willingness to pay into the safety fund—with a suggested reasonable cap of a half million dollars a year. Their misrepresentations and, yes, lies, created a tempest in a teapot. I encourage people not to jump to conclusions based on media distortions, plus they are not privy to all the internal evidence.
Plan your visit at ArkEncounter.com.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,