Tax board talks reallocation
November 13, 2019
The Tucumcari Lodgers Advisory Tax Board on Wednesday discussed a city manager-supported proposal to reallocate Tucumcari Convention Center expenses so at least an additional $90,000 would be available to promote existing events and possibly launch new ones.
Board Vice Chairman Al Patel, noting the board’s promotions division covers the convention center’s annual operations costs of $181,000 a year, proposed the board’s executive side assume half that. Patel said such an arrangement could bring two more large events to Tucumcari and increase promotional funding for existing festivals.
City manager Britt Lusk said “let’s go one better” and proposed the board’s executive side assume 60% of convention center expenses, freeing up more than $108,000 for promotions.
Lusk said he floated a similar proposal to the city commission last year, but it was rejected because commissioners were “confused.” He said if Patel or other board members expressed their support for a similar plan, that might persuade the commissioners.
Patel later said the executive side of the lodgers tax board has about $700,000 in reserves that can easily cover convention center operations.
Board members also discussed retiring debt early on the convention center debt, which is scheduled for a June 2021 payoff. Payments for the center’s debt that was refinanced in 2011 amount to $156,000 a year.
City Finance Director Rachelle Arias said the center’s debt interest is 2.5%, and paying it early would save about $9,000.
Board member Matt Bednorz supported the idea.
“That would pay for another event,” he said.
In other business Wednesday:
• Lusk said in his city manager’s report he would present to the city commission a landmarks ordinance to add a layer of protection for historic neon signs along Route 66.
Lusk said he recently received a template of such an ordinance from Johnnie Meier, former president of the New Mexico Route 66 Association who shepherded a neon-sign restoration program along Route 66 about 15 years ago.
Lusk said the proposal would be examined by the city attorney and presented later this month to the commission. He noted Tucumcari would be the first Route 66 city with such an ordinance.
Preservation of historic neon signs along Route 66 has become a bigger issue in recent months with the disappearance of them in Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Albuquerque and Grants to sign collectors.
Meier said in a previous interview the neon-sign landmarks ordinance is modeled after Albuquerque’s landmarks ordinance for historic properties. Meier said legal precedence exists for designating an object, such as a neon sign, as a historic landmark, as well.
• The board heard a follow-up report on September’s fourth annual Wheels on Fire 100 bicycle race from organizer Brandon Goldston. He said 117 participated, a 15% increase but below the goal of 50%. Goldston said the disappointment was tempered by the fact the event’s growth didn’t “overwhelm” volunteers and thus reduce riders’ positive “small-town experience” of the race.
Goldston said Wheels on Fire will collaborate with other races in Plainview and Dumas in Texas to share information and boost attendance. He said he hopes to attract 200 riders by 2020 and eventually offer a $5,000 to $10,000 prize to winners. He said the event also is partnering with the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce to attract bigger sponsors.
Patel said he would be open to the board giving Wheels on Fire more promotional support. Board Chairman Larry Smith noted the event spent less than budgeted. “You got a lot with a little,” he said.
Todd Duplantis, a board liaison for the city commission, said he saw an increase in business during the race at his restaurants and estimated 70% to 80% of participants rode the previous year.
• During a conference call with tourism contractor Sunny505 of Albuquerque, representative Joanie Griffin said the city’s tourism website needs to be updated with more events. She also laid out future ad purchases in New Mexico Magazine, Pandora, New Mexico True emails and Facebook.
Lusk noted a report stated Tucumcari online campaigns have a higher click-through rate and New Mexico True campaigns had reached 5 million people.
“We’re reaching into markets we ordinarily wouldn’t reach into,” Lusk said. “We’re getting a lot of bang for the buck.”
• Arias said motel-tax revenue was slightly above projections so far this fall.
• All board members recommended Lila Doughty, general manager of the Palomino Motel, as the newest member over the other applicant, David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge who resigned from the board in January. Bednorz said it was time “to try someone new,” and Patel said the board could use “new ideas and a new approach.” Board member Brenda Lopez submitted her resignation letter Wednesday. The commission makes the final decision on approving new board members.
• Duplantis said organizers for the annual Shootout at Six Shooter Siding disc-golf tournament should consider requesting promotional funding from the board. He said many of the tournament’s 41 competitors stayed overnight in Tucumcari motels and ate in the city’s restaurants. He also advocated the board’s executive side to provide money to prepare the Five Mile Park course for next year’s tournament.
• Lusk said Mesalands Community College is “changing directions” on offering assistance to the city. He said the college’s students would be working more on updating the city’s website, with some social media work.
• Carmen Runyan, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said an online map of Tucumcari’s dozens of murals would be transformed into a more interactive site with quicker updates.
• TJ Riddle, chairwoman of Tucumcari Rawhide Days, said sleigh rides would be offered in downtown starting about 4:30 p.m. Dec. 6, with hot chocolate or hot cider served.