Council votes to release funds to Chamber
Fri, 2016-06-10 05:00 News Staff
By LYNETTE SOWELL
During a workshop and meeting which lasted a little more than three hours, the Copperas Cove city council made a number of decisions regarding HOT funds, facilities rental fees for nonprofits, and appointed four to a local board.
HOT funds to the chamber of commerce and another call for “receipts”
In a vote of 4-3, the Copperas Cove city council voted Tuesday evening to disburse $61,760.35 of Hotel Occupancy Tax funds to the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce for the Oct. 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016 reporting period.
This agenda item was part of the meeting’s consent agenda, but was requested to be pulled by councilman George Duncan.
Council members Dan Yancey, Marty Smith, Kirby Lack and Matt Russell voted in favor of releasing the funds, while council members David Morris, James Pierce Jr. and George Duncan voted against it.
Duncan said again he is simply asking to see “receipts” for the chamber’s expenditures, as he has asked since January 2015.
Councilman Dan Yancey asked if there are specific receipts the council would be interested in seeing.
“If there are specific questions about specific questions, ask for those,” he said.
The chamber has been under scrutiny, particularly by Duncan, for its reporting method of HOT funds expenditures for tourism events since that time. The chamber is set to undergo an audit of its HOT funds expenditures as is the standard practice when a president departs the position, after former president Betty Price’s resignation in March 2016.
“The chamber, I agree, they haven’t given the receipts and all that, so I request that the chamber put all their receipts into a basket and bring them for the city council to look at,” said councilwoman Marty Smith. “Let’s get that over with. This is absolutely ridiculous that this is going on, It’s the chamber’s fault—sorry—but they should have done that right off the start, but also we don’t need to keep beating this up.”
Joe Newman, interim chamber president, said the chamber is currently using its own reserve funds to fund tourism events because it hasn’t received a check from the city since August 10, 2015. He asked that the city release the funds contingent upon the chamber providing receipts.
The newest member of the chamber of commerce board, Tammy Rodriguez, Vice President for Patient Services with Metroplex Hospital, spoke out Tuesday evening against what she calls “yo-yo-ing around and around” by the council.
:I can tell you, I can speak for the entire board when I tell you we are working diligently, but the requirements have changed,” she said. “When we were here at the last meeting, the mayor said we are going to complete the audit and move forward as a fresh start, and immediately the first thing I hear today is the receipts again, way before my time, probably way before most of the people who are on the board’s time. We just want to move forward and provide services for the community and I don’t understand why the city would be opposed to that.”
Rodriguez also asked that the council provide any information requests to the chamber in writing, so when the chamber comes back to the council with the request and it is presented, it can say it has fulfilled the request in writing.
City facility rental fees: discounts for nonprofits, but no more free rent
Another consent agenda item, that of amending facility rental discounts for qualifying non-profit organizations, was pulled by Kirby Lack.
The chamber of commerce came up during this discussion also, namely the rental fee increase that the chamber’s military affairs committee faces with this amendment.
Three members of the military affairs committee, Mark Peterson, Laura Peterson and Robert O’Dell, spoke during citizens’ forum about how the eight military affairs dinners held at the civic center each year enhance relations between Copperas Cove and Fort Hood.
“The recent increase in rent of the civic center from $250 to $900 has put our committee in danger of not being able to host eight of these dinners a year,” said Mark Peterson. “All of our members are volunteers that pay out of their pockets to host this dinners.” He said the out-of-pocket costs for each military affairs committee member is $569 per year and that they don’t feel they can ask committee members to give any more than they are now. If the rent is $900, the committee will be forced to reduce the number of dinners to three per year and have multiple commands at one dinner, Peterson added.
O’Dell said that the military affairs dinners are not known just in the city and Fort Hood area, but in other parts of the world. He said the military commands who attend the dinners get to do so at no charge, and everything is put on by volunteers. O’Dell mentioned the businesses which support the dinners, such as Wal-Mart and H-E-B donating grills, H-E-B donating $300 and giving a discount on steaks, and Lil Tex Restaurant providing the baked potatoes.
“I did provide an alternative to the chamber of commerce that to my knowledge was not accepted,” said city manager Andrea Gardner during the citizens’ forum.
During the agenda discussion, city manager Andrea Gardner again told the council that the city had sent a proposed interlocal agreement to the military affairs committee similar to the one it has with the school district.
In that proposed agreement, a copy of which was given to the Leader-Press, the city asked that its annual chamber of commerce dues be waived, that the city’s table fee at the annual banquet be waved, along with a waiver of fees for all city council members who attend the Military Affairs banquets. In exchange, the committee would receive monthly use from March-November of each year subject to standard policy and availability, with a reduced charge, with a blank amount to be filled in, for hosting the dinners at the civic center.
That interlocal agreement was not accepted, Gardner said, which was confirmed by Mark Peterson who said that the chamber of commerce chairman of the board, Butch Ronne, said no to the agreement. Gardner pointed out that this agreement was a draft and could be negotiated.
The amendment to the facilities rental discount form was finally voted on and approved by the council.
No more Joint Image Campaign for city, but more Christmas lights
The city’s participation in the Joint Image Campaign was on the agenda as requested by council member Kirby Lack at a prior meeting. The Joint Image Campaign was begun in 1998 between the city, the chamber of commerce, CCISD and the Economic Development Corporation. Each entity contributes $2,500 annually, a total of $10,000, with $4,000 of those funds paying for the city’s light display at BLORA’s annual Nature in Lights.,
Lack made a motion for the city to withdraw from the Joint Image Campaign and for the city to receive its share of the $18,013.29 balance back from the account, and use those funds to purchase new Christmas lights for the city. This was voted on and approved by the council.
Please see Tuesday’s publication for complete coverage of the Copperas Cove City Council workshop where staff discussed with the council tourism options and the possible impact of House Bill 157 on the Economic Development Corporation.