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Longview City Council mulls hike in hotel tax

By Angela Ward
Feb. 22, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Mayor Jay Dean will present the city council with a proposed ordinance at tonight's meeting that would increase the rate of the local hotel occupancy tax to 9 percent. The additional revenue would be used to make improvements to the rodeo arena at the fairgrounds.

"A portion of the funds collected will be used to add restroom and concession facilities at the arena," Dean said Wednesday evening. "Currently it doesn't have either of those amenities."

Other improvements already are under way at the arena complex.

After an engineering study found the old grandstands structurally unsound late last year, the city moved in December to spend about $900,000 to demolish and replace the grandstands, lighting and announcers booth. Earlier this month, Gregg County agreed to pave and improve parking used by the arena and other events at the fairgrounds.

The next piece of the puzzle, Dean said, is to add the restrooms and concessions.

"I believe this will be good for our community and will help attract more visitors and events to the convention center facilities," Dean said.

The last session of the state Legislature granted both Longview and Tyler the authority to raise their hotel-motel tax rates from 7 percent to 9 percent.

Under Dean's plan, the funds from the rate increase would allow the city to finish improvements at the arena, which, in turn, would reduce the necessary size of a public events center at the Maude Cobb complex, an amenity long sought by local leaders. At the time the Legislature acted, Gregg County and the City of Longview were working together on a cooperative project to build a multi-use center at the complex. The county has since pulled out of the project, but Dean has vowed to move forward.

Earlier plans called for an event center to have included an indoor rodeo arena, but Dean said the upgrade of the current arena means an events center now would not require such a sizable footprint.

"I'll explain this in depth at the meeting, but the reality is the whole dynamic of that project has changed now that it's strictly a city project," he said. "It's no longer a singular events center project, it's two projects."

In other business, the council will consider three related items that focus on Amberwood Place, a proposed low-income housing development. Assistant City Manager Chuck Ewings will present the items to the council.

"I'm going to ask the council to consider a resolution providing a commitment of financial support for this project, as it's definitely something we need in Longview," Ewings said.

The items related to Amberwood consist of adopting a Community Revitalization and Redevelopment Plan; a resolution appointing Amberwood Place to act on the city's behalf in applying for funds from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs; and the commitment of financial support, which would not exceed $156,000.

Amberwood Place would consist of 80 units and be located at the northwest corner Spur 63 and Hawkins Parkway.

The council will also consider a half-million dollar contract for the construction of the Jack M. Mann Splash Pad at Lear Park.



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