Chamber Executive Director Lisa Del Bosque also has sent a request to City Manager Tom Ginter asking him to arrange a meeting between the chamber and Beeville City Council as early as Friday to discuss a decision by the city to terminate the contract between the two entities for the use of the city’s hotel and motel occupancy funds.
The issue at hand is an announcement sent to the the chamber two weeks ago telling the organization that the city is terminating its agreement with the chamber for the so-called HOT funds.
Currently the chamber receives half of what the city collects in occupancy taxes.
This year the chamber expects to receive about $170,000 in HOT funds. But the figure varies. Last year the chamber received $168,000 from the city.
When asked if the chamber has any idea what the City Council wants from the chamber, CofC board member Orlando Vasquez said, “No, sir. That’s part of the problem is that we don’t know what they have planned.”
Ginter said he is not sure either what the council wants in a new agreement but he expects the council will ask the city staff to draw up a draft agreement for the council to review and pass that on to the chamber.
Vasquez said he had understood that the city and chamber would negotiate a new agreement. “They are working on something for the Chamber of Commerce to consider?” Vasquez asked. “That’s not negotiating.”
“We’re just guessing,” Vasquez said.
The banker and chamber chairman-elect said he wants the council to know what the impact will be on the CofC. “It’ll have a serious impact on what we can do as a chamber,” Vasquez said. “A negative impact.”
One idea the chamber board has heard and one to which the organization objects the most is the suggestion that the chamber move its visitors and tourism director to the Beeville Community Center on East Corpus Christi Street.
Currently that person works in the chamber office at 1705 N. St. Mary’s St., a highly visible building on one of the city’s major thoroughfares.
The community center is in a former bank building a couple of blocks from North Washington Street in downtown Beeville and out of the way of most traffic through the city.
“Because of the urgency of this matter, our board of directors recently met in a special session to discuss the notice of termination letter and its implications,” Del Bosque said in a letter to Ginter requesting a meeting with the council.
Both Vasquez and Del Bosque have accused the council of terminating the contract for HOT funds without notice.
Del Bosque said the chamber has until Oct. 31 to come to a new agreement with the chamber.
Vasquez said the chamber uses the funds as intended, to encourage tourism in Bee County.
He said the chamber has organized “Winterfest” in conjunction with the Beeville Main Street Program. The chamber also works closely with the Western Week Celebration to provide money to hire bigger name bands that will help attract more visitors to the county for that event.
Vasquez and Del Bosque are on a special committee made up of chamber members to deal with the termination. Other members are CofC board chairman Tammy Casciato and businessmen Scott Childress, Robert Beck, Pete Patel, banker Mike Marshall and attorney Tom Beasley.
“It’s a rather unprecedented event,” Beasley said of the city’s notice. “We’re trying to let our members know what’s going on.”
But Beasley admitted that CofC board members are not even sure what is going on with the city. “It’s hard to know what to do,” he said
“This shouldn’t even be an issue,” the attorney continued. “We want to work with them but we don’t know who to talk to at this juncture. It wasn’t necessary to terminate our contract to get us to sit down at the table and talk.”
“We’ve been a chamber for more than 69 years,” Vasquez said. “We think that we have a pretty good group. We should be working together with the city and that seems not to be the case.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.