Council approves Main Street proposal, increases community center fees

July 20, 2010 at 2:20 a.m.

The City Council passed a proposal Tuesday night to co-fund a program that aims to revitalize and preserve downtown.

In a 5 to 2 vote, the council agreed to support the Texas Main Street Urban Program, pledging $65,050 the first year and increasing its support to $72,200 by year five, if Victoria's application is accepted.

Councilmen David Hagan, of District 4, and Gabriel Soliz, of District 2, voted against the funding proposal.

The back half of the council chambers was filled with residents who support the project, which is spear-headed by Robby Burdge.

"There's more participation and passion for downtown. I've been in Victoria 20 years and never saw this many individuals come together for one cause," Burdge said to the council.

The program is part of the Texas Historical Commission and will be a joint effort between private and public enterprises, with each side contributing half of the money needed to operate it.

"I'm proud of how private businesses and the public sector came together," Councilman Joe Truman said.

Hagan, on the other hand, said he didn't think the council should approve the funding during what he called a "double-dip recession."

"We're making cutbacks in the budget, and I foresee others in the future," Hagan said. "It's a good project, the timing's just off."

According to the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Main Street Urban Program has created more than 25,000 local jobs and created $2 billion in economic reinvestment in the 86 participating programs.

The Victoria program will have a two-person staff and a board that will oversee the revitalization of downtown.

"I looked at this as a business investment that's going to come back to us many fold," Mayor Will Armstrong said. "It's a matter of pride in our community and truly an investment in our future."

The council chambers erupted in a standing ovation after the vote was passed. Armstrong stood as well, gesturing and clapping toward the supporters.

Burdge said he will send out Victoria's application Wednesday. If accepted, the program will start in 2011.

The City Council also unanimously voted to increase rental fees at the Victoria Community Center.

Doug Cochran, director of Parks and Recreation, proposed a 5 percent increase in rental fees for the center's dome, annex, arena and grounds.

Other fee changes include increasing the refundable deposit fees from $200 to $400, increasing the early entry fee from $50 to $100 and charging $1 per table and $.25 per chair used by renters.

The fee changes will apply to new contracts only.

Mercy Rendon, a member of the DeLeon Club, was the only audience member who addressed the issue. Among other things, he asked the council to consider fee leniency for nonprofit groups like his.

Cochran rebutted that 95 percent of the center's renters are nonprofit groups.

He also noted that rental fees only account for about 40 percent of the center's budget, with the rest coming from the city's hotel tax.

After the vote, Rendon said he wasn't pleased but understood the council's position.

"The fees just take away the money that we normally have for scholarships," he said.

Rendon said the DeLeon Club has a two-year contract at the center for its annual dance and the club may or may not decide to go elsewhere after the fee increase.

The council will have to vote on the fee increase one more time before it goes into effect.



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