EDC puts rodeo donation question on Council

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The Liberty Hill Fair and Rodeo made its pitch for sponsorship of this year’s event to the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corp. (EDC), but the EDC chose to leave the decision in the hands of the City Council.

Following nearly 25 minutes of discussion regarding the $5,000 request, the EDC Board voted 6-0 in favor of tabling the request and leaving it up to the City Council to decide whether to support the Rodeo. The matter is expected to be on the Council’s agenda Feb. 11.

With the event approaching in April, John Clark – a former EDC Board member – came to the EDC representing the Rodeo in its search for sponsors.

Clark said at even a conservative estimate, the Rodeo would bring a sizable economic impact locally, citing the 400 contestants that participated last year.

“Conservatively, looking from the economic development standpoint, just take 300 of the contestants and use that as an example,” said Clark, representing the Rodeo. “They come in with their truck and trailer and they pull in with an average tank of about 45 gallons. If they have two sandwiches from Subway, and on the way out of town they get a snack, that’s roughly $60,000 in revenue right there alone, which is gross revenue to our town that we didn’t have.”

The chance to help justify a new hotel in Liberty Hill was also a benefit Clark cited in the benefits of helping the Rodeo grow.

“That would give us a huge opportunity to play for that,” Clark said. “That’s just a small part of the economic development side to what we have happening.”

The Board was curious how the $5,000 would be spent if given to the Rodeo.

“Where would the $5,000 donation go?” Clark said. “There are three key areas we are looking at. We know overall expenses have gone up about 10 percent. Second, you see our advertising budget is extremely small. We really want to beef up the education side of things, and this year we added a military and a vocational scholarship to those we have.”

The last two years, neither the City or EDC contributed to the Rodeo.

The EDC gave $5,000 to the Liberty Hill Development Foundation in August for advertising of the 2018 Sculpture Festival, but not before lengthy similar debates over a couple of meetings.

There was discussion last summer as the EDC ironed out its annual budget priorities about whether it should be making donations to help fund events in the community. Board member Johnny Johnston said at that time he felt donations should not be a long-term funding solutions for such events, but said events like the Independence Day Spectacular and Christmas Festival were different because they were not intended to raise money.

“I am not a proponent of the EDC supporting festivals in general,” Johnston said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the main purview of what the EDC is here for. I don’t oppose helping a new venue starting out in its first or second year, but I think beyond that they ought to be starting to stand on their own. I think the Rodeo having been in place for 12 years really needs to stand on its own, as I think the Sculpture Festival ought to as well.”

Johnston added that the EDC should be focused more on infrastructure projects.

“I think this ought to go to the City, not the EDC,” Johnston said. “I think the EDC funds would be better used for things like putting in water lines, or streets, or street signs, or whatever it is that helps the economic community as a whole.”

Mayor Rick Hall, also in attendance at the meeting, confirmed the request to the City for $10,000 in addition to the $5,000 requested from the EDC, would be on the Feb. 11 Council agenda.

“All I can say is, personally, I think this is one of the coolest things the city has,” said Hall. “From the City Council standpoint, all I can comment on is that it is coming to the City Council on Feb. 11 to be discussed then.”
Facade grant questions

The EDC Board was set to consider expanding the Downtown Facade Grant program to all of the Liberty Hill city limits and extra-territorial jurisdiction, but a final decision stalled as the Board discussed how best to handle the issue of location.

“Since we already have a sign grant program for the greater Liberty Hill area, this will be a separate facade grant program,” said EDC Executive Director Lance Dean. “It will be for existing businesses and non-residential properties, for the ‘street-facing facade of income-producing, non-residential businesses within the described area of Liberty Hill and the ETJ,’”

The program would allow business applicants to be reimbursed for 50 percent of the cost of the improvements up to $5,000 upon completion of an approved facade renovation project. The current program covers only the designated downtown area and has assisted 11 businesses through the grant program.

The concern during the Jan. 31 meeting was whether the EDC might want to limit the program to major arterials and roadways to maximize visibility. Some board members said grant approval could be determined on a case-by-case basis, but others wanted to see more specific guidelines for uniformity and fairness.

Board member Eric Bailey suggested that the program be tied to the City’s Transportation Masterplan and designate specific types of roadways for eligibility.

The Board voted unanimously to table the issue until more specific wording was identified for which roadways would be eligible.

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