Chamber, MDD compromise
Representatives from the Chamber of Commerce and Municipal Development District (MDD) have reached a compromise on the long-simmering issue of Rockdale’s tourism activities.
Within the past week boards of both organizations have endorsed the plan, proposing a seven-member Rockdale Tourism Management Board (RTMB) composed of representatives from five entities which would manage tourism activities and make decisions on hotel-motel tax (HOT) fund expenditures.
Under the proposal the Rockdale Tourism Committee would be disbanded in its current form.
Now it’s up to the city council to either accept, reject or change the plan. The council meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
RTMB—Under the proposal, the new RTMB would be composed of two members each from the Chamber and the MDD and one each from the Rockdale Downtown Association, the Rockdale Fair Association and from Rockdale’s hoteliers.
The new tourism management board would be charged with appointing, and managing, a Tourism Director, to work out of the Chamber’s rock house. Role of that person would be to “lead and coordinate tourism development.”
Administration of HOT funds, one of the major points of contention before the compromise was reached, will be through the Chamber, based on the decisions of the RTMB.
The Chamber is to make monthly reports to the RTMB and provide quarterly financial reports.
Former Tourism Committee members would be be invited to serve on volunteer committees be invited to serve on volunteer committees under the new RTMB.
SELF-SUSTAINING—The proposal commits the MDD and the Chamber to invest funds toward getting the RTMB rolling, but only until the effort becomes self-sustaining for salaries.
The MDD would commit to invest $100,000 over three years and the Chamber $22,500, plus office space, for three years. (In years 4-5 the Chamber would commit to office space but not money.)
Also, $20,000 per year for salary plus office expenses would come out of HOT funds for the first three years, $15,000 in year four, $10,000 in year five and $5,000 in year six.
The city council would form the RTMB as a political subdivision and approve the groups to serve in it, but would not select individual members from the groups.
It also places HOT funds in an account to be managed by the RTMB with administration by the Chamber, in accordance with the Texas Tax Code.
DIRECTOR—Proposed duties of the full-time director include:
• Report to the RTMB.
• Connect with key partners throughout the city to develop a clear tourism package.
• Makes application for HOT funds to the RTMB for projects being organized by the RTMB.
• Reviews all HOT fund applications for compliance to laws/regulations and delivers to RTMB for approval.
• Reviews and/or completes post-event reports and delivers to RTMB.
MEETINGS—The Chamber and MDD met three times under the guidance of facilitator Jane Baxter Lynn of Austin.
Chamber representatives were Janice King, Cynthia Lumpkin and Zach Gallop.
Representing the MDD were Gary Griesbach, Collier
Perry and Kara Clore.
“All six of us walked away, feeling this was a win-win situation for all of us,” Clore, MDD manager, said. “There’s not one person who loses in this scenario.”
“We put in a lot of hours to come up with a proposal that we feel is the best thing for our community,” King, Chamber chair said. “I am excited that we are headed in the right direction for the city.”
The MDD vote Monday was unanimous in favor of the proposal. The Chamber board. meeting last Tuesday, endorsed the proposal without a dissenting vote. One director abstained.
King and Griesbach, MDD president, will present the compromise proposal together to the city council.
HISTORY—In November, 2012, the Chamber voted to discontinue administering HOT funds, citing tensions with some members of the city council.
The city temporarily took applications from entries wishing to use the funds for events, but then created a Tourism Committee for that purpose.
In January, the MDD was about to propose creating a tourism director committee, but during that month the Chamber decided to again ask for administration of HOT funds.
Both entities came to the February council session to make their cases, which would have forced the city to choose between them.
But Griesbach proposed the MDD and Chamber meet to see if they could work out their differences, a suggestion enthusiastically endorsed by the Chamber and the city.
This compromise is the result.