City rounds out first fiscal year with tourism department, councilman questions report
By LYNETTE SOWELL
After the completion of the city’s first full fiscal year of conducting tourism activities, the city’s tourism and information coordinator, Heather Bryan, reported about the first season of the farmer’s market along with the Fall-o-Ween festival to the Copperas Cove city council at its most recent meeting.
The end of the Farmer’s Market marked the final event of the first full fiscal year of the city offering “tourism” activities, which also included 2016’s Fall-o-Ween and Christmas Extravaganza, and 2017’s 5K Run to the Polar Bear Plunge, Farmer’s Market, Food Truck Festival, and funding a quarterly tourism guide.
For the market’s first season, which ran from May through October, there were 25 market days, with a total of 37 vendors and three food trucks. Bryan shared that attendance averaged 245 for the four-hour market held each Thursday, with 483 being the highest number attending during one market.
Farmer’s market revenue amounted to $400, which came from the food trucks, and fell short of the projected revenue by $3,850, due to no financial sponsorship of the event. However expenses were less than projected at $1,206.75, with more than half of the expense coming from city staff working the event at $792.50.
Bryan’s report also included the first event of the newest fiscal year, the Fall-o-Ween Festival, in its 2nd year of expansion from the former “Safe Trick or Treat” downtown. An estimated 5,340 attended the event, with the majority attending from Copperas Cove, followed by Killeen and Fort Hood. Part of the advertising included four 4 billboards in Killeen, Temple, Nolanville, and Gatesville – ran for 2 weeks up until the event.
“(Fall-o-Ween) saw many successes from the candy aisle to the vendor marketplace, and the sheer number of guests indicate community support for the event and I think validate our advertising efforts,” Bryan said. She named planning and staff involvement as successes, as well as advertising and local business involvement, and added that the police department’s Explorers assisted with traffic control and parking. There was a traffic backup on Avenue B, but she said they have planned for ways to prevent that next time. The department also plans to increase food vendors and add bouncers to help sorted lines, and add wristbands for presale. Staff time on the report consisted of four full-time and five part-time equivalent employees and cost $775.92 for the four-hour festival.
Councilman Charlie Youngs questioned the amount of city employee time was spent on the event, asking if there were any on-duty police department staff required for traffic control.
Bryan did say there were officers who volunteered their time and that Sgt. Schmidt opened up some positions for extra hours for the police department.
Youngs elaborated on why tracking those hours was vital.
“Tourism is new to the city; I think it’s important to grasp how many trash people do we need to pay overtime to, to support tourism events,” Youngs said. He said he would like to know if city staff need to be paid to support those events, whether it be overtime, and where it comes from, whether extra staff are needed to collect trash or clean the bathrooms due to an event.
“There are costs always associated with the event. We need to grasp all phases of expenditures and be able to identify, where’s that dollar coming from? Is it coming from your budget, the (police) chief’s budget, or is it all coming from hotel-motel tax dollars?”
Youngs, who took office in December, stated more than once while running for office that he wasn’t happy with the direction the council was going, and that it had “destroyed” the chamber of commerce. One of the things he said he wanted to do was rebuild bridges between the city and the chamber.
The seeds of change with the city retaining and spending the majority of its HOT funds were sown back in January 2016, when the council amended the city’s personnel improvement plan by adding the tourism and information coordinator as an unfunded position.
Then after the interim president of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, Joe Newman, informed the council at a May 2016 meeting that the chamber did not intend to request HOT funds from the city, the city council directed city staff in June to prepare a budget that would use HOT funds.
The city council then formally established the Convention and Visitors Bureau as a department of the City of Copperas Cove by passing an ordinance in December 2016.
The City of Copperas Cove completed its first full fiscal year of tourism activities, which included a farmer’s market held weekly in City Park from May through October.