Serving the High Plains

Lodgers board turns down Fast TV fund request

Members of the Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Advisory Board reluctantly turned down the Fast TV Network’s request for about $135,000 in motel tax funds but indicated it would approve a revised application if it involved the nonprofit New Mexico Route 66 Association that is part of the project.

The Fast TV Network and the New Mexico Route 66 Association announced during a news conference in October they are acquiring and moving into the vacant Kmart building at U.S. 54 and Route 66 on the city’s east side to set up film and television studios, a welcome center and a Route 66 museum.

Mike Lee, CEO and president of Fast TV, told the board during its Jan. 9 meeting the company would close on the sale of the Kmart property within the next 10 days.

Lee said the $8.2 million project would use 30,000 square feet for movie and television studios used by Fast TV and other film or television companies, plus 10,000 square feet and $1.95 million for the New Mexico Route 66 Association that would set up a Route 66 museum and welcome center there.

Lee said the $135,000 request would use $80,000 for construction on the museum and welcome center and the rest for advertising it on the Fast TV Network that uses online, Roku and Amazon Fire Stick platforms.

Lee said the Fast TV Network studios will be leased to other film and television companies and “put a lot of heads in beds” in motels. He said Fast TV is not requesting tax abatements or any incentives for the project.

Board Chairman Matt Bednorz, while expressing his appreciation for Fast TV’s enthusiasm and commitment to Tucumcari, said he feared giving lodgers tax funds to a private business would be illegal due to state law. Board member Michael Carlson expressed similar reservations.

Melissa Beasley-Lee, president of the New Mexico Route 66 Association and Lee’s wife, told the board the association is a federally recognized nonprofit organization.

With that, Bednorz said the board might be amenable to a lodgers tax fund request if it came from the association.

Lee signaled no hard feelings if the board rejected Fast TV’s request for funds.

“This project is happening whether we get the money or not,” he said. “We really want to work with you guys.”

City manager Paula Chacon said the contents of the New Mexico Route 66 Museum in one wing of the Tucumcari Convention Center could be moved to the association’s museum site, freeing space at the convention center for more rentals.

In other business:

— The board tabled a request from convention center manager Loy McSpadden to pay for a new John Deere mower and gator until he receives other bids.

McSpadden said it takes him about 1 1/2 to two days to mow the convention center grounds with a Toro residential mower. He said a zero-turn mower would greatly reduce that.

McSpadden said a gator would help him haul trash barrels and other equipment.

Both items would cost a total of about $29,600.

Bednorz asked McSpadden to get more bids for similar equipment so the board can revisit the matter at its Feb. 1 meeting.

— The board tabled recommendations on changes to the lodgers tax fund application. Bednorz said it needs to require a final report from organizers and give a more thorough accounting where funds were spent.

— Rattler Reunion was scheduled to give a final report on its August event but no one was present to do so. The board received word later in the meeting the report would be presented in February.

— The board delayed its election of officers until its February meeting, when board member Al Patel was scheduled to return. Patel had missed the last two meetings.