Weatherford Democrat

Local News

August 10, 2012

Chamber may distribute tourism funds

WEATHERFORD — Under a budget proposal for fiscal year 2012-13, Weatherford Chamber of Commerce officials rather than the city council could be distributing hotel occupancy tax monies to a number of agencies.

In the past, the Weatherford city council had been entirely responsible for allocation of funds for non-profit groups. Normally all non-profit groups go before the council each year and ask for funding.

Four agencies, including the chamber, Doss Heritage and Culture Center, Theatre Off the Square and Texas Opry, had gone before the council earlier this year in an attempt to receive funding. Under the current budget, the city has authorized $184,000 in HOT monies. The groups had requested a combined $237,400.

Assistant City Manager Sharon Hayes said the city looked at the dilemma and determined the chamber would be the group that could best allocate the monies, geared toward tourism.

“The chamber would be in charge of determining the criteria for the funds and making sure they were spent accordingly,” Hayes said.

City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said the chamber is funded by the city and there could be some duplication of efforts right now with the way things are done. Blaisdell estimated about $50,000 could be saved under the proposal.

“The chamber looks at tourism,” Blaisdell said. “Doing this could result in come cost savings and allow us to centralize our efforts.”

During a city council meeting Tuesday, councilwoman Heidi Wilder questioned the move wondering if the chamber wouldn’t struggle with the decision the same way the council did.

 “I’d really like us to ask the agencies involved their thoughts before we go ahead with this,” Wilder said.

Councilman Jeff Robinson said consolidating efforts would allow the city to get more “bang for the buck.”

Chamber President Tammy Gazzola said the chamber would look into how other cities and chambers handle the situation before making a decision.

“The positive here is we’re not inventing the wheel because lots of cities do this,” Gazzola said. “We will have a board decide how to distribute the monies.”

Hayes said the proposal would be brought back to the council after all the entities had been contacted for their thoughts. The 2012-13 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

None of the entities involved had heard of the proposal when contacted Thursday. Marilyn Carter, co-owner of the Texas Opry, said “I don’t think that would be a very good idea.”

Donna Kruse, president of the Theatre Off the Square board, said she would be willing to listen to any proposal and see how it can be handled. “Since we didn’t receive any money from the city last year, we’ll be interested in seeing what’s going on,” Kruse said.

Heather Castagna, Executive Director with the Doss Heritage and Culture Center, said it’s hard to make a determination without seeing or hearing the proposal first. Any way to help streamline the process would always be considered, however.

“We bring visitors to town and do a lot of marketing,” Castagna said. “We are all for allocating our resources prudently. Anything that would allow us to work together for the betterment of the taxpayers, we would be all for that.”

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