By BRIAN SMITH
Every year, local and community organizations petition the Weatherford City Council for funding as part of the upcoming budget process.
With the council preparing to launch into some tough budget choices for the fiscal 2014 budget, seven such groups made their presentations during a special meeting Tuesday. The requests total $284,400.
Five of the seven groups received money in 2013, the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce receiving the most at $121,400 out of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, or HOT monies.
The chamber asked for the same amount this year. Chamber President Tammy Gazzola said tourism the chamber helps promote brings in new money to the city and also helps diversify the economy.
Through the first quarter of the year, HOT monies are up 12.4 percent from a year ago, showing the chamber and other entities are doing the job in bringing tourism not only to Weatherford but statewide.
Three other groups sought HOT monies. Doss Heritage and Culture Center Executive Director Heather Castagna said the center is bringing in 2,200 visitors a month, or more than 26,000 a year, up from the 19,600 visitors the center estimates it had in 2013.
“We had visitors from 35 states and abroad, including Tanzania and Denmark, so far this year,” Castagna said. “We are trying to preserve Parker County’s heritage through displays and exhibits and we have something going on here nearly every weekend.”
Castagna said a new outdoor wedding space has been a big hit as it is booked with 23 weddings the rest of the year and also has bookings in 2014. Seventy percent of wedding guests come from out of town, Castagna said, giving the center ample opportunity to put “heads in beds.”
Doss officials received $21,700 from the city last year and asked for $50,000 this year.
Texas Opry Theater officials received no HOT monies last year and are asking for $48,000 in 2014. Marilyn Carter with the Opry said the facility had visitors from 89 cities over the last year. More than half the visitors to the Opry come from out of town, spend money in local restaurants and hotels and enjoy local attractions, Carter said.