This is the second year in a row that the council has approved a large outlay of hotel and motel tax funds to assist the organization in purchasing liability insurance for the event.
The 4-1 vote in favor of providing the funds came after Texas Mile organizer Shannon Matus provided the council with a report on what the semi-annual speed event brings to the city.
The vote came after some council members took the Bee Development Authority board to task for requiring a $50 million insurance policy for the Texas Mile organization.
Matus and others at the meeting said that the standard insurance requirement for speed events is $5 million.
City Manager Deborah Ballí said she had requested a joint meeting with the BDA board for the Thursday night session but the BDA had declined the invitation.
“What you mean is that they won’t meet with us?” Mayor Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez asked.
Martinez called it “extraordinary” that a board made up of members appointed by three elected bodies would refuse to meet with one of those elected bodies. And the elected body which requested the meeting is responsible for appointing four of the board members.
Councilman David Carabajal, who is one of the four BDA board members appointed by the City Council, said he was not notified that the BDA’s executive committee had met and had made the decision not to meet with the council regarding the insurance requirement.
“I sit on that board,” Carabajal said. “I don’t share those views.”
Carabajal said that “out of respect I would like to have a chance to make those decisions, especially when it benefits the whole city.”
“In the end,” Carabajal said, “this money can be better spent.” He said he objected to having to provide $80,000 of the city’s hotel and motel tax receipts on what he called “a one-trick pony.”
“I don’t agree with four persons on the board (the executive committee) making decisions for the whole board,” Carabajal continued.
Council members were told that the Texas Mile organizers had to have an answer to their request for funds by Monday so the organization could open its books to participants who wish to run in the March 22-24 event.
“I support the event,” said Councilman John Fulghum. “I want to make it happen.”
But Fulghum said he thought it was “outrageous that the BDA would require the Texas Mile organizers to have to pay $94,000 for insurance coverage for an event that would be set up for a total of six days in 2013.
At least 30 Texas Mile supporters attended the meeting.
Several of them reminded the council of the economic impact that the event has on the community during each of its two events.
Matus said that the event brought 6,395 participants, crew and spectators to Beeville last year and they spent more than $700,000 in raw dollars during 2012.
During the meeting, council members questioned the need for a $50 million insurance policy for the event.
Martinez said the assets that had been at Chase Field last year for the Sikorsky Aerospace Maintenance operation are no longer there.
“There is another tenant out there and their assets need to be covered as well,” said Councilwoman Libby Spires.
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Scotten expressed concern about spending so much of the city’s hotel and motel tax money on one event.
“Although I didn’t like it last year, I can understand the request,” Scotten said. “But now the assets are gone. They could at least cut it in half.”
When the discussion on the request ended and Martinez called for action, the council was told that it would cost J&S Matus Motorsports $94,190 to purchase the $50 million policy for 2013. The difference in the cost for the $5 million coverage and the $50 million insurance policy would come to $78,690.
But Ballí reminded the council that it had approved a $40,000 cap in hotel and motel tax expenditures for an event. However, because the Texas Mile would be purchasing insurance coverage for two events in 2013, the organization could be given $40,000 for each of the events for a total of $80,000.
Ballí said the city would pay the money directly to the insurance company providing the coverage and none of the funds would go to the Texas Mile organization.
The council then heard comments from a number of those who had come to support the request. Business managers said their sales doubled during each Texas Mile event.
Fulghum then made the motion to approve the request and provide $40,000 for each of the two events.
Carabajal seconded the motion and it passed with Spires voting against it.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.