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PA Council wants tourist attractions to be more self-sufficient

 

Close to a million in Hotel Occupancy Taxes were divvied up among Port Arthur tourist attractions and the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau Tuesday, but not before City Council questioned whether the tax dollars were being spent in a worthwhile manner.

Tiffany Hamilton, District 2 City Councilwoman, said she was concerned that local attractions such as Rose Hill and the Museum of the Gulf Coast address the interest of the city’s present-day demographics.

“As I walk through that museum I don’t see the history of our demographic,” Hamilton said.

In all, Council approved a total of $883,136 in Hotel Occupancy Tax funding. Of that, 12,000 goes to assist the Federated Women’s Club of Port Arthur in day-to-day operations of the historic Rose Hill Manor.

Pompeiian Villa, another historic Port Arthur home, was awarded $19,800.

Both Rose Hill and Pompeiian Villa are owned by the city.

The Port Arthur Convention and Tourist Association, which manages and operates the city’s Convention/Visitors Bureau, received the bulk of the allocations $570,000.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Tammy Kotzur said the award funds the bulk of the bureau’s operating budget.

Also funded was the Museum of the Gulf Coast with $236,336 and $45,000 to the Southeast Texas Arts Council,

Originally, when the city opted to participate in the Hotel Occupancy Tax program, all of the money collected from a special tax charged to customers staying at hotels, was allocated back to the CVB.

Since then, many other hotels have been built in the area to keep up with demand for construction jobs. With the added HOT collections, the city decided to spread the money around to other tourist and arts attractions, as provided by state law., Kotzur said.

Texas law allows HOT taxes to be used for activities that directly promote tourism, or the hotel and convention center industries.

Hamilton said she was in favor of funding the tourist destinations, but wanted to have a better accounting of where each spent their money since the city was “joined at the hip,” with them.

Of particular concern is the Museum of the Gulf Coast, she said.

For years the city and Lamar State College – Port Arthur have each helped fund museum operations.

Lamar’s budget constraints this year kept the college from contributing their portion, and they may not be able to assist next year, Port Arthur City Manager Brian McDougal said.

“Our contribution has grown year in and year out. The (museum) board has not taken steps to be self sustaining,” McDougal said.

Museum Director David Beard is trying to mount a campaign to raise money for the museum’s operation, McDougal said while noting that the Museum of the Gulf Coast is the largest tourist draw in Port Arthur.

In addition to the HOT allocation, the city of Port Arthur contributed another $50,000 to the museum’s operation in its 2015-16 budget.

“We have some great history here from an outsider looking in, and we don’t want to lose that,” McDougal said.

City Council agreed to go ahead with the HOT funding this year, while suggesting that each tourist attraction become more self-sufficient.

District 3 Councilman Morris Albright III suggested the City Council meet in a workshop session in the near future to further discuss the tourist attractions and how they could become more self-sufficient.

E-mail: sherry.koonce@panews.com

Twitter: skoonce@panews.com