Commissioners approved this past week an additional $1 charge to any entry fee charged by someone renting the facility.
So, for example, if the entry fee to an event is $5 — $1 of that would go to the county. If there is no admission or parking fee, then the $1 fee won’t be charged.
Commissioner Carlos Salazar, during the court’s May 10 meeting, said that the county would put this additional money into a special account that would only be used for Expo Center improvements.
“We want to leave the general fund out of this,” Salazar recommended.
Placing the money into a special account will make it easier to track spending.
“This way we have a direct line of accountability,” said Judge David Silva.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt recommended that the court go with the cap requested by the Summer Fest committee of $2,000.
“Whatever we set up is going to be for any group that comes out there — whether it be Diez y Seis or Western Week,” he said.
The court could always increase the cap later once these groups saw the improvements being made to the Expo Center with the money.
Couple that additional money with the new hotel occupancy tax coming into the county, and the court will have more resources to improve the facility.
The question though is just how much money will this bring in?
Silva was cautiously hesitant to talk about dollars.
“The HOT fund will probably kick in October or November,” the judge said. “But remember we got 2 percent, not 7.
“I want to see a couple of checks before I say this is going to be pretty good.
“I have no idea what it is going to be.
“Projections are just that — projections.
“It would be wonderful if we could get one of the estimates that was more than $500,000. But those are just estimates. Maybe if we have this thing for 10 years, we will get $500,000.”
About a month ago, the court was told that both the state Senate and House had approved their request to collect a hotel occupancy fee.
The court previously agreed that this money would be used to make repairs and improvements at the Expo Center.
So what repairs are needed?
Salazar, in whose precinct the center falls, has a list of items he would like to see improved.
First, there are the restrooms.
The need to make improvements to the restrooms came to head about seven months ago when visitors began complaining about the filth inside during big events.
Normally, the restrooms are easily cleaned, but when the crowd grows exponentially, usually only a couple of times a year during the county’s largest events, the conditions inside can become deplorable.
During Western Week, which drew in thousands of visitors, port-a-potties were brought to the Expo Center grounds and the freestanding restrooms were locked.
There is also the addition of a sprinkler system to the new arena.
Right now, the arena is watered down to by hand to settle the dust.
Then there is equipment.
“We need equipment out there that will cut the grass faster than the riding lawn mower we have now,” Salazar said.
Event coordinators are also asking for a portable stage, he said. That could be used in the arena or just about anywhere on the grounds.
“The list can go on and on,” he said.
And, as he is eager to add, “We don’t have to use any of the general fund money.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.