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EDC funds 'Cowboys on Main,' efforts to jumpstart park project

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

If all meetings of the newly reconstituted City of Bandera Economic Development Corporation are as productive as the last, the municipality is in good hands - and the city can be pulled along in the slipstream of the ECD or be left in its wake.
On Wednesday, March 13, led by President Johnny Boyle, the corporation approved giving the city approximately $2,500 as requested by Mayor Don Clark, to purchase 10 wooden picnic tables for installation on both the north and south sides of the Medina River in City Park. The purchase and installation would hopefully serve to jumpstart the city's proposed $30,000 park improvement project that would include playground equipment and walking trails through the 75 acres along the Medina River.
Although Mayor Pro Tem John Hegemire had earlier requested cement picnic tables at a cost of $750 each, it was decided that wooden ones would be easier to move during flooding. Also, as park project manager, City Administrator Mike Cardenas wanted to have the tables in place before the spring season opened and the city began charging park patrons on weekends.
Additionally, the EDC stepped up to the plate and offered assistance to the Bandera Business Association regarding funding the important Cowboys on Main event, which takes place throughout the summer. Traditionally, the ongoing project had been funded by grants through the Frontier Times Museum. However, according to volunteer event coordinator Genie Strickland, the museum is "moving in another director. This was their outreach program and now they have developed other programs, which is fine."
Therefore, another sponsor was solicited to support the popular program. On behalf of the BBA, which offered to manage the program, Strickland asked for $13,000 for Cowboys on Main. The Saturday event includes performances by the City of Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighters, as well as demonstrations by chuck wagon cook and farrier Kelly Scott, world champion roper Kevin Fitzpatrick, horsewoman Jacqui Jackson and local musical performers.
"We have gotten the word out through the state about this and I receive three to four calls about it each week," Strickland said. Statewide, Cowboys on Main garners advertising value worth $194,242 and public relations worth $549,000, she said.
Strickland added, "Every dollar given to Cowboys on Main goes to salaries in this community."
Stressing the importance of tourism, she offered an example of the 2012 city sales tax allocations. Bandera, with its population of 857, receives $685,800 in sales tax - the highest of similar cities that include Wimberley, Castroville, Mason, Goliad, among others. The municipality closest to Bandera was Mt. Vernon. With its population of 2,662, Mt. Vernon received $599,200 in sales tax allocations.
"Bandera has become the poster child for Texas tourism," Strickland said. "This is impressive. It proves you don't have to be a big city to bring in these numbers."
While recognizing the importance of Cowboys on Main, Boyle noted that EDC allocations over $10,000 are required to have public hearings. "After that you have to wait 60 days before releasing the funds, providing city council approves," he said.
Strickland noted that in previous years, the $13,000 had been allocated automatically by the EDC for the program.
EDC Director Binky Archer explained that the corporation is required to stay within 10 percent of the total revenue of $227,000.
"Your request is almost half the program budget," Boyle added, noting that the previous EDC "didn't (always) follow the rules."
He suggested that the BBA, EDC and members of the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Chamber of Commerce and a city council representative of the HOT fund (Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax revenues) meet to review all programs and open the lines of communication going forward. All agreed his idea was exemplary.
It was also suggested that the funds allocated to the museum for sponsorship of Cowboys on Main instead be diverted to the BBA.
Cardenas raised a question about the definition of program vs. project, which EDC Director Martha Shoemaker said she would investigate with the Office of the Attorney General. "I would just like to clarify the position and optimize the amount of funds that could be made available to the event," she said.
To prevent the program from being cash poor, Boyle asked Strickland if Cowboys on Main would take less funds from the EDC at this time - with possibly more forthcoming later. "We want to build a template that would allow us to move forward with a more cohesive program in the future," Boyle said.
"We would be thrilled to do that," Strickland replied. "This important project gives work to locals."
Boyle also asked her to coordinate the various groups for a future meeting while Shoemaker does her "due diligence."
Archer's motion to allocate $7,000 to Cowboys on Main, pending city council approval, was unanimously approved.