Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Tax board votes to prioritize renovations


September 30, 2020

The Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board during a special meeting Thursday voted to prioritize spending almost $40,000 toward renovations at the Tucumcari Convention Center, a new visitors guide, print advertisements in magazines and securing at least two new tourism billboards.

The board also recommended its executive committee give $10,000 to $12,000 to a producer who wants to film his proposed “Bands of Enchantment” music television show in Tucumcari and another $3,000 to Fast TV Network, which is producing a Route 66 documentary on how Tucumcari is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Both would be partially used to cover production costs.

The board learned in its previous meeting earlier in September it had almost $40,000 in funds that were leftover from the previous fiscal year or promotions money that was unspent because the pandemic caused the cancellation of all events. It scheduled a special meeting to set priorities on that spending. The board had set a conservative budget early in the spring and had penciled in September to revisit its finances.

Several board members wanted to divide the money in certain amounts to particular projects. But Chairman Larry Smith insisted amounts remain unspecified because of uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

“It’s unknown what’s going to happen,” he said. “We can’t make hard and fast decisions. I want to make sure we’re hitting the basics.”

Smith also insisted Tucumcari’s visitor guide needed an upgrade before the spring. New Mexico MainStreet will assist the city with a free redesign of the guide. Smith said he wants the guide to be an inclusive, all-in-one publication “instead of a stack of stuff” of several documents.

City manager Mark Martinez said several “outdated” aspects of the Tucumcari Convention Center need a face-lift, including the main ballroom floor, entrance, north bathrooms and internet infrastructure. Martinez said later in the meeting updates to the floor was the most important task and would cost $100,000 to $200,000.

Martinez also noted the loan on the convention center itself will be paid off in June, freeing another $151,000 a year.

Board member Matt Bednorz recommended not only using a portion of the $40,000, but also part of the board’s $47,000 in cash reserves on the convention center.

“It’s the biggest asset we have, and we need to update,” he said.

No motion was made to adopt Bednorz’s proposal.

Two outdoor advertising companies gave the board during its previous meeting a list of available billboards. Though advertising possibly in Oklahoma or U.S. 287 in Texas is seen as desirable, board members didn’t see any available billboards to immediately secure.

Martinez cautioned against using too much money for billboards.

“I don’t want to exclude billboards, but I don’t want to exclude digital marketing, either,” he said. “I want it to be well-rounded.”

Todd Duplantis, a liaison for the city commission, said billboards “still are very important” and “tell a story” about a destination to prospective tourists.

Smith also said Sun Vista Outdoor Advertising, which owns several billboards on Interstate 40 east of Albuquerque, said the company could forgive the final year of its contract with the city and replace the images for free with a new three-year deal. Board members long had expressed dissatisfaction with at least two of the designs by Sunny505, the city’s former marketer, in conjunction with New Mexico True.

The city previously had placed tourism ads in Route 66 Magazine, Route Magazine, American Road and the quarterly magazine by the New Mexico Route 66 Association, and Smith wished to continue some of those.

Al Patel proposed spending $10,000 for an electronic sign at the Glenrio Welcome Center. But fellow board members noted the center remains mostly closed because of the pandemic. That idea also failed from the lack of a motion or a second.

The board also received another visit from Vincent Chavez, who wants to produce a 30-minute pilot of the “Bands of Enchantment” music show in Tucumcari for New Mexico PBS stations and the RFD-TV cable channel. He estimated the initial cost of the episode would be $27,000, and asked for $15,000 from Tucumcari. Chavez said he hopes to eventually produce eight episodes.

Martinez said he recommended a $10,000 to $12,000 contribution and waive the fee to use the convention center for those concerts. The board agreed the executive board should pay for that initial cost.

Martinez, who expressed enthusiasm for the “Bands of Enchantment” proposal, said the lodgers tax executive board has excess money that can be used. Duplantis said the show not only can promote Tucumcari, but Logan, Conchas Lake, San Jon and other area destinations.

Connie Loveland of Tucumcari MainStreet informed the board that Fast TV Network, based in Albuquerque, wants to shoot a documentary in Tucumcari as part of its “Legends of Route 66” series and submit it to film festivals. She said the company recently toured Route 66 and told her Tucumcari had more activity during the COVID-19 pandemic than any town except Tulsa.

The filmmaker wants to concentrate on the refurbishment of the Apache Motel, launch of the Tucumcari Talking Tour, the move of Loretta’s Burrito Hut and possibly an ongoing fundraiser to secure and restore a motel sign from the former Trav-O-Tel Motel on U.S. 54 that also hung on the closed Historic Route 66 Motel.

Loveland said the initial cost of the film would be $20,000 and asked the city $3,000 to help defray some expenses. She said Fast TV Network would raise the rest of the cash through advertising.

Another Route 66 episode on the network debuted the previous night and gained 1 million views in less than a day, she said.

“It’s a great opportunity, and they’re very enthusiastic,” she said.

Martinez said the executive side of the lodgers board probably wouldn’t approve the $3,000 for Fast TV Network until its next meeting in early October. Fast TV wanted to begin filming this week.


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