Like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth between the city and the county, the Somervell County Commissioners Court again took up the question of who should pay for extra RV spaces so that the Expo Center can attract bigger horse-related shows.
The Expo has said it needs a total of 80 to 100 RV spaces so that show participants can park their horse trailers, travel trailers and pick-up trees.
Mike Dooley, the Expo’s facilities manager, said the American Junior Rodeo Association decided to move its national from San Angelo to Glen Rose a year earlier than expected. The Expo had bid on the show for 2011 and 2012. As a result of the quicker-than-expected move, the Expo hadn’t included the additional spaces in its budget.
The rodeo event, which is projected to bring three-quarters of $1 million to the community, agreed to hold the finals competition at the Expo if it could get more RV spaces for attendees with horse trailers, travel trailers and pick-up trucks.
The Expo currently has 30 such spaces on its lot. It has the space to put 30 more on its site, Dooley said. Another possibility is to put 20 more spaces on land around the city’s water treatment plant.
Dooley and Billy Huckaby, executive director of the Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau, have appeared before the Glen Rose City Council, the 4-B Tax Advisory Board and the Commissioners Court several times since February to appeal for the additional spaces for the AJRA show.
At past council meetings, members have questioned why the county doesn’t fund the spaces since the Expo is a county-owned facility. The city, however, has some land around the wastewater treatment plant that might be used for more spaces.
The debate between the city and county has been going on for two months now.
At last week’s regular meeting of the 4-B Tax Advisory Board, members decided to make a bridge loan of $80,000 for the spaces. The bridge loan passed with board chairman Connally Miller and board member Chris Bryant voting against it.
County Judge Walter Maynard balked at the county’s continued funding of tourist-related activities without a “partnership” with the city.
“We were looking for partnerships, not a loan,” Maynard said. “If it’s not going to be a partnership, it’s not good. We’ve been carrying the load on tourism for a year. I was hoping we could start to be having a partnership here.
“No one seems to realize we’re spending $600,000 a year to bring business into the community,” Maynard added. “But times have changed and now it’s cut, cut, cut” spending.
“Businesses and city taxes are what benefit,” he continued. “I don’t know who long we can continue to be the big supporter of tourism.”
Revenues are dropping off this year at the Expo mainly because of the economy, Dooley told the court.
“We are aware our costs are rising substantially and revenue is down,” Dooley said. The Expo is looking at the way it charges for shows, he added.
Commissioner Mike Ford said it might be time to run a poll before budget season to see whether to change the fee schedule.
“Maybe it’s time to do another competitive market analysis,” Dooley said. “This could be a benchmark year for us in budgetary stuff. We’re going to look at this from bottom to top.
Some 4-B members and commissioners remain concerned that private RV park owners need be included in receiving business from the shows.
Danny Chambers, who owns an RV park west of town, again told commissioners that his main concern is that RV owners who park at the Expo are participants and not spectators and questioned how that would be enforced. He would like to see non-participants referred to private RV parks.
“I don’t know how it would be governed,” he said.
“Our intent has never been to compete with local businesses,” Maynard told him.
The debate continued. Maynard clearly was frustrated with the city’s lack of participation in funding the new Expo spaces beyond making a short-term loan.
“We approved this two months ago and thought it was a done deal,” he said.
The area around the water treatment plant is considered a buffer zone and no permanent structures are allowed.
In the end, the court decided to approve $4,800 to proceed with engineering to determine exactly how many more RV parking spaces could be put on county land.
In other action at the court, sealed bids were opened on proposals for electricity and commissioners voted to proceed with a controlled water test and moisture detection test on the leaking roof at Glen Rose Medical Center.
At Ford’s suggestion, the county will use PSM Consulting to identify the leaks and find out the extent of the problems before moving ahead with repairs or a new roof.
The court also decided not to advertise for surplus hospital property. Several abandoned stone houses are on the property and several individuals had expressed interest in bidding on the surplus rock and wood. But Squaw Valley Golf Course wants to use the rock around its club house, so the commissioners decided not to make it available for private use.