The Devine Chamber of Commerce is getting an infusion of cash after the City Council voted 3-2 to give it $6,650 during the Special meeting held on November 24.
The money is from the City’s hotel occupancy tax fund, which State law mandates can only be used to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry (Texas Tax Code Sec. 351.101).
In a letter addressed to the Council, Buckner requested $3,900 to design and install a billboard along IH-35 for six months; $1,000 to design and print 100 “Think Local” shirts to sell and give away; and $1,750 to design and manage a revamped Chamber website.
“The Chamber of Commerce is asking for this in lieu of what we would have given them to have hosted the Fall Festival this year,” Mayor Cory Thompson said.
Buckner wrote that his business, Marken Medina Co., would design the billboard to entice people to stop in Devine and promote awareness of the Devine Golf Course, shops, and restaurants using the “Think Local” slogan.
“The advertising would highlight these businesses and our town by saying ‘GOLF COURSE,’ ‘HOMETOWN EATS,’ ‘UNIQUE FINDS’ on the billboard with the Devine, Texas branding,” Buckner wrote.
Proceeds from the “Think Local” shirts would be used for beautification in Devine and the promotion of Chamber businesses.
Additionally, Buckner wrote that Marken Media Co. would overhaul the Chamber website to include information, events, and highlight Chamber businesses.
“Benefits will include – easier management of data (making modifications and addition of new members more smoothly and quickly) and increase sign-ups and online collection of member fees for Chamber dues, etc. as well as future Devine Cactus Fall Festival vendor booths and information,” Buckner wrote.
“I know that the website is actually in really bad shape,” Thompson said.
District 2 Councilman Steve Lopez asked if the Chamber had had a fundraiser, noting that the request was a pricey one.
“It is a lot of money,” Thompson said. “Their normal fundraiser is Fall Festival, which they canceled back in August.”
District 3 Councilman David Espinosa asked how much money was in the HOT fund, and Interim City Administrator Dora Rodriguez estimated around $21,000 or $22,000.
“And as we know with those funds, it can only be used for advertising and promotion and stuff like that,” Thompson said.
“Which is what all of this is,” District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall said.
Council discussed how much funding the City has given the Chamber in the past and concluded that last year they gave less cash outright due to the manpower that City provides.
Randall said she liked the billboard idea because the entire town would get marketed, and Espinosa said that the Chamber and the City need each other and need to work together.
“I feel comfortable, if you guys agree with me, to give $5,000,” Espinosa said.
Thompson said that Buckner’s request was to cover the cost of all three items, but that Council could go with Espinosa’s suggestion and tell the Chamber to make up the difference.
“I don’t think we should pay for the whole year for the billboard,” Randall said, “unless we decide later that we want to.”
Rodriguez suggested having Buckner provide receipts for how the money was spent, and Thompson agreed that the City always needs to get receipts.
“$1,750, website design and management. How long is that for?” District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler asked.
“I would imagine the website is forever, but the actual management fees on it, I don’t know, because it doesn’t state here,” Thompson said.
“That’s not for us to worry about,” Randall added.
“It’s not for us to worry about?” Lawler repeated.
“I wouldn’t worry about that portion of it, how long is it managed for,” Randall said, “because we’re helping him get it fixed, or set up.”
“And you don’t think they’ll come back next year?” Lawler asked.
“Oh no, they’ll come back to us,” Randall said. “Every year they come to us for money.”
Thompson explained that the Chamber asks for money every year, just like economic development group Go Medina asks for dues every year, and added that the Chamber’s website expense shouldn’t be $1,750 every year.
“Because this should be to create the whole new website and then whatever the management fee for a year is,” Thompson said.
A motion by Randall and District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega to give the Chamber $6,650, amend the budget, and request receipts passed 3-2 over objections from Lawler and Lopez.
By Marly Davis