The Orange City Council approved allocating $595,000 in hotel occupancy grants the city gives annually.
State law requires the hotel occupancy tax be used to promote tourism to get “heads in beds” for the hotels, or to support the arts or historical preservation.
Assistant City Manager Jay Trahan said hotel rooms charge a total of 15 percent for taxes. Of that, 6 percent goes to the state, 7 percent to the city and 2 percent to Orange County. The city council appoints a citizens advisory board that reviews the grant requests and make recommendations for expenditures based on the city’s budget calculations.
The city’s convention and visitor’s bureau is getting the largest share with $388,000. The Lutcher Theater is designated $45,000 and the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce is set to get a total of $46,000 with $35,000 for the Bassmaster Elite fishing tournament, plus $7,000 for the Mardi Gras Parade and $4,000 for the River Festival.
Other allocations are Friends of the Orange Depot, $15,000; Heritage House Museum, $30,000; Gulf Coast Cajun Festival, $5,000; Orange Trade Days, $5,000; Riverfront Boardwalk landscaping and maintenance, $15,000; Southeast Texas Arts Council Off Ramp Magazine, $6,000; and Future tourism events, $40,000.
Trahan said the deadline to apply was July 15, but the application from the Lutcher Theater was late. However, the theater’s application had a postmark of July 10. Lynae Sanford, director of the theater, apologized and said she didn’t know the mail would take more than a week. Council members did not have a problem with giving the money to the theater.
Sanford said the Stark Foundation owns the theater building and pays for its upkeep, but the shows are paid through grants, sponsorships and ticket sales. She said a Broadway show will cost about $65,000.
She said 76 percent of the patrons at the theater live over 100 miles away and some of them stay in hotels. In addition, the theater companies performing average renting 723 rooms at local hotels during the season.
District 1 Councilor Pat Pullen said most places allow postmarks before a deadline and maybe that should be added to the rules.
In other business, the council approved a city plan to move the parks department to the old National Guard Armory on Meeks Drive. The parks maintenance building has been in a former fire station on Green AVenue next to Lions City Park.
City Manager Dr. Shawn Oubre said the fire station flooded during Harvey and previously in Hurricane Ike. He suggested tearing down the building and either selling the land or expanding the park.
The council also approved a one-year contract with the Orange Municipal Police Association. The contract includes a 2.5 percent pay raise, the same amount as other city employees are getting in the 2018 budget year.