Chamber tourism office approved on 3-2 council vote
On a 3-2 split vote Monday, with Mayor Larry Jones casting the deciding vote, the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce received some of the funds it used to administer, allowing the organization to keep its “rock house” headquar ters open regular hours as a visitor center.
Last year the Chamber surrendered administration of the city’s hotel-motel tax.
The council met in special session Monday to deal with five requests for funding, two from the Chamber and one each from the Kay Theatre Foundation, Tejas Book and Art Festival Committee and Rockdale Historical Society.
All five were approved.
SPLIT VOTE—Most discussion was on a Chamber’s request for about $16,000 in funds, mostly to continue to operate as a visitor center.
Debra Jackson, Chamber chair, told The Reporter the request was for about one-third the funds the organization had been expending to operate with a two-person staff.
“The office of president, that’s gone,” she said. “This is a request to keep going with one person, a secretary, for visitor center operations, not for publicizing or managing events.”
Council member Joyce Dalley displayed a Texas visitors guide, published by the state, and pointed out that Chamber of Commerce headquarters and websites are the first listing for virtually every town and city included.
Council member Toby Johnson made a motion to table action on the request until the council considers “requests for proposals” (RFPs) opened in December, but not yet brought before the full council.
City Manager Kelvin Knauf said proposals were solicited from entities who might be interested in undertaking advertising and promotional activities on behalf of Rockdale and that three proposals were received.
“If the council selects a firm, it would be responsible for developing ads, placing ads, and assisting event organizers in promoting their event,” he said. “The firm would not have staff in Rockdale to answer phone calls or handle the walk-in traffic. That is what the Chamber would do.”
Johnson’s motion died for lack of a second.
Dalley then made a motion to accept the Chamber’s tourism office request, which was seconded by councilman Colby Fisher.
The vote was 2-2 with Dalley and Fisher voting in favor, Johnson and councilman Doug Calame against.
(Council members Melody Dawson and Willie Phillips were not present.)
That left it up to Mayor Jones to cast the deciding vote and he cast it in favor of the proposal.
Also approved were:
• $3,750 for the Chamber website (request was for $4,000, pro-rated to reflect 94.5 percent of the hits on that website are from outside Rockdale, 4-0 vote.
• $14,500 for Tejas Book and Art Festival, request presented by Tejas committee chair Dave Phillips, 4-0 vote.
• $10,000 to Rockdale Historical Society for renovation of railroad dining car into possible restaurant and reception area, 3-0 vote with Dalley abstaining.
• $2,000 for K ay Theatre Foundation to purchase and place a historical marker, 3-0 vote with Johnson abstaining.