BlueCats

Bellmead has proposed a new hotel tax to pay for a multi-purpose ballpark that would serve as home to the Waco BlueCats.

Waco BlueCats graphic

Bellmead residents will vote May 5 on a proposal to increase the city’s hotel tax to pay for a multi-purpose venue that would house the Waco BlueCats.

Mayor Doss Youngblood voted against putting the measure on the ballot. Youngblood said residents may misinterpret the council’s action to mean the city has made progress with the ballpark and the proposed independent professional team and league it would serve.

“Why are we going to be in rush to get this passed?” Youngblood said. “We’re sending a message to the people it’s really being taken care of, but nothing is happening.”

The council approved a motion Tuesday to get the proposal on the ballot to increase the city’s 7 percent hotel and motel tax rate to 9 percent. The added 2 percent would fund the stadium project if it happens.

City Manager Bo Thomas said the hotel tax bump would generate about $120,000 a year in revenue.

“If the project, if you will, or the venue, is not constructed, the tax is never imposed,” Thomas said. “The tax can’t be imposed unless the citizens authorize it.”

City leaders have been negotiating with the Ventura Sports Group to bring in the baseball team, which would be part of an independent league still being developed, and the multi-purpose stadium.

City leaders said the idea is that visitors, not residents, will pay the tax. The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts approved the city’s request to place the matter on the ballot.

Council member William B. Ridings said he has told residents the whole BlueCats project is on hold until further notice. It is unclear whether Ventura Sports will return with a proposal and when it would happen if it does, Ridings said.

McLennan County voters recently approved a similar countywide venue tax that will pay for an overhaul of the public spaces surrounding the Extraco Events Center.

County residents approved a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals and a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax for the proposed $34.4 million project.

The ceiling for the hotel and motel tax is 11 percent for local governments, Thomas said.

“There was just enough room after the county’s election for us to impose the 2 percent,” he said.

Street maintenance tax

Bellmead residents will also decide in May whether the city will continue collecting a 0.25 percent sales tax for street maintenance. Residents approved the measure, and it took effect in July 2010. The program expires after four years unless reauthorized by voters, which last happened in 2013.

Annual collections of the tax average about $550,000, according to city documents. The revenue can only be used for street maintenance or repair.

Council elections

The May 5 election will also include races for the Precinct 3, Precinct 4 and at-large council seats. Mark Pace holds the Precinct 3 seat, Ridings holds the Precinct 4 seat, and Gary Moore holds the at-large seat.

The city is paying the McLennan County elections office about $4,100 to conduct its elections.

The last day to register to vote for the May election is April 5.

Alcohol sales

During its meeting Tuesday, the council also gave final approval to allow bars to continue serving until 2 a.m. The city’s alcohol ordinance previously required the sale of beer, wine and mixed beverages for on-premises consumption to end at midnight.

“This was a request by a local business that came to a couple members of council to be considered,” Thomas said.

Residents voted in November 2015 to start allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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