Although this may seem like a lot of money to spend on tourism, the city still has $33,000 left in HOT funds for additional requests that could come up next year. George West City Manager Sandra Martinez said the eight requests were just the main local organizations.
“Kudos to the hotels for bringing in the money,” Martinez said. “In my opinion, everyone who applied has done a good job bringing in tourism.”
Those eight applicants include the Dobie West Theatre, George West Winterfest, the Grace Armantrout Museum, the George West Chamber of Commerce, George West Storyfest, the George West Centennial Committee, Cinco de Mayo and Unify to Beautify.
“It means our community is growing, and the money from the hotels is going out and helping a lot,” Mayor Sylvia Steele said.
State law requires HOT funds be spent on promoting tourism, even though the roads are crumbling and a wish list of infrastructure repairs and equipment grows longer each year for cities, counties and for the state as a whole.
Although roads and other infrastructure are indirectly tied to tourism, they do not meet the state’s requirements.
In order to qualify for HOT funds, the expenditure must directly enhance and promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. Texas law defines “tourism” as “guiding or managing individuals who are traveling to a different city, county, state or country.”
The Texas attorney general consistently interprets a “direct” promotion of the convention and hotel industry as a program, event or facility likely to cause increased hotel or convention activity.
The law even states that HOT funds may not be used for general revenue purposes that are not directly related to increased tourism and hotel and convention activity.
Mary Ann Pawlik requested $23,000 for the Dobie West Theatre. She said the theatre is gearing up for more performances and events to go along with George West’s centennial celebrations in 2014.
Pawlik also requested $20,000 for the George West Centennial Committee. She said the committee is seeking funding from local organizations and companies to help with the various events planned throughout 2014 to celebrate George West’s 100th anniversary.
Brandi McClendon requested $10,000 for next year’s George West Winterfest, a newly formed event. The first one is scheduled for next month, and McClendon said the group’s goal is to expand on this year’s event by bringing in live reindeer.
George West Mayor Sylvia Steele abstained from voting because she made a request on behalf of the Grace Armantrout Museum for $18,000. She said the museum is in “constant need of repairs.”
Rena McWilliams requested $56,000 for the George West Chamber of Commerce. She said this will help the chamber operate the visitors center, provide restoration work to the Buck West house and assist in multiple George West events and organizations throughout the year, such as the Big Buck Contest, George West Storyfest, and the museum.
Mary Margaret Campbell requested $56,000 on behalf of George West Storyfest. She sad HOT funds were 41 percent of Storyfest’s income last year since the event does not charge admission.
Sandra Martinez requested $25,000 on behalf of the fourth annual Cinco de Mayo cook-off and festival.
Unify to Beautify presented its request for HOT funds during the city council’s meeting on Nov. 18, but the request won’t be voted on until the Dec. 16 city council meeting since the request came in late. Grace Wilson and Kelley Shannon requested $2,500 on behalf of UTB for its annual ranch house tour fundraiser. Shannon said the tour brings in between 250 and 300 guests and 75 percent are from out of town.
She also said the next ranch house tour will include a viewing of J. Frank Dobie’s belongings, including his typewriter and clothes at the Dobie West Theatre on May 2.