Conference center won't get tax rebate

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Fredericksburg City Council voted to terminate an economic development agreement with the Seven Hills Hotel Resort and Conference Center during Monday’s meeting.

A 5-0 vote to terminate the agreement happened after an executive session during the 6 p.m. Zoom meeting.

Councilman Tom Musselman said this doesn’t affect the potential construction of the 150-room conference center. The agreement only had to do with the rebate of the city’s portion of the Hotel Occupancy Tax monies.

Dennis Murphree, managing general partner of developer Murphree & Company, was notified in early June that stipulations for his part of the agreement for the $75 million hotel conference center project were in default.

City Manager Kent Myers said in an earlier interview that if financing wasn’t committed for the project by July 5, the agreement could be terminated.

Budget hearing

City staff and the council heard no citizen feedback during its first 2021 Fiscal Year budget public hearing Monday night.

City staff and council members waited a few minutes for citizens listening to “raise their hand” and offer verbal comments regarding next year’s budget, but all they heard was silence.

Musselman said while he didn’t want to assume why no one spoke, he believed residents might just be more involved with everything else happening in society, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city is planning to hold budget work sessions on July 22 and July 28 via Zoom after the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases. Myers said he wished it could be in person.

Musselman doesn’t think remote meetings were the reason for lack of public comment. He also hopes that when in-person meetings resume, residents can still have the option to participate remotely.

City staff had its first round of budget meetings with every department last week and Myers said the meetings went well.

“All of the departments are doing a really good job holding the line on expenses,” Myers said. “They understand our revenues are down and we’ve got to do our part to just maintain.”

He added that since proposed budgets were so tight, cutting wasn’t needed at the preliminary level.

The schedule is to get a proposed budget by July 20.

“This will basically be a status quo budget with no new programs or services, no new personnel, no salary increases, nothing really changed from the current year,” Myers said. “It’s basically just to maintain our operations without reducing services.”

Staff will also provide the city council with a listing of additional items mentioned in previous meetings that they could consider adding to the budget and what impact those items would have.

A budget workshop with the Gillespie County Commissioners will be at 8:30 a.m. on Aug. 3.

City facilities

Given the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Gillespie County, two of those cases being city employees, city staff wanted to seek direction from city council as to what to do with city facilities.

“We want to continue to look at our facilities in light of the increasing number of cases here,” Myers said.

Access to City Hall and the City Annex was limited last week, when officials announced customers needing to speak with city departments must make an appointment.

Myers said the staff recommendation was not to make any drastic changes and continue monitoring the situation.

“We want to hold off closing the recycling center and most of the park facilities,” Myers said, noting going out to parks can be beneficial for mental health.

Some proposed changes include adding occupancy limits to public restrooms, specifically at Marktplatz and the Visitor Center and continuing to monitor the basketball pavilion.

Clinton Bailey, assistant city manager and director of Public Works, said changes have recently been made to Lady Bird Johnson Golf Course, such as reverting to take-out food only and limiting access to the clubhouse.

“We want to continue to monitor the situation,” Myers said. “If our numbers continue to spike, then probably at the July 20 council meeting, we’ll have a number of facilities for which we’ll recommend closure.”

Other business

The council also:

•  Voted 4-1 to shift the timeline of the Post Oak/Cherry Street extension annexation and zoning schedule by an extra 90 days. Councilman Charlie Kiehne opposed.

•  Heard a presentation on the five-year Capital Improvement Plan for the City of Fredericksburg.

•  Heard an update on Gov. Greg Abbott’s recent COVID-19 mask order. Myers said the city has focused on relaying the message of the mask order to the community, and that compliance has generally been good.

•  Heard an update on Abbott’s rules regarding the amount of people in a public gathering. As of now, a public gathering requiring permission from the mayor is considered 10 or more people. Two weeks from today, the council will consider the status on a list of events.

•  Heard an update on the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force. Bailey reported to the council that short-term rentals are seeing more business now than in the past few months, as most of them saw bookings at 100%.

•  Heard a report on Independence Day events. Myers said while attendance at events like the horse races were down, the weekend had gone well. Bailey said Tuesday that attendance at the city’s fireworks show at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park was about half of normal and that people were social distancing.

•  Discussed the court’s rulings on the E. 290 Owners’ Coalition vs. City of Fredericksburg, Texas lawsuit in executive session. Musselman said he couldn’t say what was discussed in the meeting.