Tax board considers assistance requests


April 15, 2020

The Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board on Wednesday wrestled with a trimmed-down budget because of the coronavirus pandemic when considering assistance requests to events for the 2021 fiscal year. The board indicated more funding might be available in the fall if tax revenue recovers.

In the end, the board recommended $61,500 worth of assistance to events or initiatives out of more than $100,000 requested. It recommended the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce run its operations on leftover for several months, then having the lodgers tax fund’s executive board fund its operations separately from the promotions board.

The Tucumcari City Commission would make the final decision on such allocations during a special meeting this week or its regularly scheduled April 23 meeting.

Mark Martinez, the city’s acting city manager after the resignation of Britt Lusk, said late in Wednesday’s meeting he would recommend hiring a full-time director of tourism in the city commission’s upcoming budget. That tidbit of information was met with approval from board chairman Larry Smith and other members.

Smith said as Wednesday’s meeting began that city finance director Rachelle Arias recommended a “very conservative” budget of $61,500 of financial assistance to events and tourism initiatives, down from about $78,000 recommended the previous year. The city expects motel tax revenue to drop considerably because of state-mandated occupancy limits during the pandemic. Lodging businesses’ occupancy maximum dropped from 50% to 25% last week.

Because of public-gathering limitations imposed during COVID-19 epidemic, those who asked for funding waited outside the city commission chambers and summoned individually to make presentations. Board secretary Al Patel also wore a cloth facial covering during the meeting, as recommended by the state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during public interactions.

Here are the events or initiatives that requested assistance, the amount requested and the amount recommended by the board:

• Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce: $33,485 requested, none recommended but will ask executive board to take over funding

• Wheels on Fire 100: $3,700 requested, $3,700 recommended

• Rattler Reunion: $7,255.59 requested, $4,000 recommended

• New Mexico Music Showcase: $9,000 requested, $8,000 recommended

• Rockin’ Route 66: $23,500 requested, $23,500 recommended

• Rawhide Days: $12,000 requested, $9,300 recommended

• Fired Up: $10,000 requested, $10,000 recommended

• Tucumcari Talking Tour: $5,000 requested, $2,000 recommended

• Shootout at Six Shooter Siding disc golf tournament, $950 requested, $1,000 recommended

Board members expressed an inclination to more fully fund events that take place early in the fiscal year that begins July 1, then revisit possibly appropriating more money to events that take place late in the fiscal year in spring 2021.

The board recommended fully funding Wheels on Fire 100 — a 100-mile bicycle race that coincides with the Fired Up festival in September — because they were impressed with organizer Brandon Goldston’s ability to “do a lot with not a lot of money.” They noted the event draws many participants who stay in Tucumcari for several days, including attending Fired Up.

Goldston also said Wheels of Fire 100 is partnering with other bicycle events in Dumas and Plainview in Texas to share publicity. He said he anticipates this fall’s event to see a surge of participants “after being stuck in the big cities” by the coronavirus and because spring events have been canceled.

The board recommended fully funding Rockin’ Route 66’s request as a “show of faith” to promoter Brian Whitcomb, who expressed a long-term commitment to the event, including the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026. Whitcomb said he’s in talks with New Mexico True to have it officially branded as “New Mexico’s Route 66 festival.” He said despite the pandemic, entertainers and vendors are “hopeful and committed” to the June 25-28 festival, tickets prices have been adjusted and coupons offered.

The board also recommended slightly more than requested to the Tucumcari Disc Golf Club for its annual Shootout at Six Shooter Siding tournament in October. Board members noted the city carved out part of Five Mile Park into the Robert Lumpkin Memorial Disc Golf Course. Presenter Daniel Zamora said he would spend about half of the money for a prominent ad in DiscGolfer magazine, which is sent to every Professional Disc Golf Association member in the country.

As for chamber funding, Arias noted she estimated it had at least $14,000 on hand to carry it through several months of expenses. Smith said the chamber should delay planned printing of new visitor guides and mural maps because previous runs hadn’t been depleted, and he questioned whether they were needed with the uncertainty of tourism season with the pandemic. Arias said the chamber also had failed to submit monthly invoices.

The board passed a motion that recommends the chamber submits its funding request to the lodgers tax board executive side in concert with the new tourism committee.

Carmen Runyan, the chamber’s director, said she anticipated her office would take up more duties after the imminent contract expiration of Albuquerque marketer Sunny505, and she added money to her request to reflect that. The city commission declined to renew its contract with Sunny505 after the board, citing complaints from businesses about the firm’s performance, recommended forming a local tourism committee instead.

Connie Loveland, executive director of Tucumcari MainStreet, said Fired Up is drawing more of an international and Route 66 crowd because of Fast TV Network publicity. A Corvette club is interested in bringing 60 vehicles to the event.

Loveland said she also would use $1,000 from her request for a fall event that coincides with Mesalands Community College’s rodeo and Watson’s BBQ block party.

Benji Torres, making a presentation for the New Mexico Music Showcase, said the festival, rescheduled to June 4-5, 2021, has booked a mariachi Elvis impersonator to perform at restaurants. He said the family of late singer Ernestine Romero remains committed to attending as the parade’s grand marshals. Romero, who had performed during Cinco de Mayo festivals at Mesalands, was slain in a murder-suicide by her estranged husband last year.

Michelle James, who made a presentation for the Rattler Reunion, said sponsorships for the event are down by two-thirds, reflecting economic effects of the pandemic. She said the event has trimmed its costs in recent years, especially with printing expenses for commemorative publications.

TJ Riddle, speaking on behalf of the postponed Rawhide Days, said the event is partnering with others in Texas. Smith suggested Rawhide Days possibly pairing with Fired Up in the fall.

Loveland said the Tucumcari Talking Tour funding request would pay for rack cards, stickers and building a website. Smith also suggested some of its funding be moved to the executive side of lodgers taxes.

For the tourism director proposal, Martinez said he would propose hiring an experienced professional for the post, with the expectation he or she would be paid close to the $50,000 budgeted to Sunny505. Martinez said the director also would market the Tucumcari Convention Center, which he said is underused.

In other business, the board approved the reimbursement of $5,000 to Rockin’ Route 66 and $2,135.90 to Rawhide Days for expenses they had incurred.


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