Bellmead residents may soon vote on a new venue tax to fund a facility proposed as a home for an independent professional baseball team still under development.

The Bellmead City Council took the first step Tuesday toward getting a proposal on the May ballot for a 2 percent bump to the city’s hotel and motel tax rate. The rate is now at 7 percent, according to the city’s website. The council will send the proposal to the State Comptroller’s Office for approval.

City Manager Bo Thomas said a venue tax is a project-specific tax. Any money collected from the tax could only go to a multi-use venue and athletic facility that would be home to the Waco BlueCats.

“If the ballpark doesn’t happen, the tax doesn’t happen,” Thomas said. “We don’t get to impose and collect the tax if the project doesn’t happen.”

The city has been negotiating for the past several months with Ventura Sports Group to bring a multi-purpose facility to Bellmead to support the team, which would be part of an independent professional league. The organization recently said the first baseball season would be postponed from next year to 2019.

The Southwest League of Professional Baseball is working to get several communities to sign up along with the newly-created Waco BlueCats. Thomas said two communities have committed and the organization is looking for at least four.

“If the project doesn’t happen, the only thing you’re out is the cost of that question on that ballot,” Thomas said.

The tax would generate about $120,000 a year, he said.

Mayor Doss Youngblood voted against the move.

McLennan County voters also recently approved a countywide venue tax.

Voters agreed to the new taxes in May with 67.4 percent approval, allowing the county to start collecting a 5 percent tax on short-term car rentals and a 2 percent hotel occupancy tax. Revenue from the taxes will go toward a planned $34.4 million overhaul of the Extraco Events Center site. The 60-acre site on Bosque Boulevard is owned in part by the county, the city of Waco and the Waco Independent School District.


Alcohol sales hours

The city council approved the first of two readings of an ordinance that would allow bars to serve until 2 a.m. Closing time in Bellmead is currently capped at midnight. The final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for Jan. 9.

The city legalized the sale of alcoholic beverages in a referendum in November 2015.

More than 700 residents signed a petition to get two alcohol-related measures on the November 2015 ballot. One measure allows drinks to be served at bars and restaurants and passed with 77 percent support. The other allows sales in liquor stores and passed with 66 percent support.

City Hall mold

The Bellmead City Council also approved spending almost $50,000 for mold remediation at City Hall.

The council authorized wallpaper to be removed from several areas in City Hall and replaced with paint Sept. 12. As the wallpaper was removed, workers discovered a large amount of mold, according to a city report. Air quality monitoring showed high levels of mold spores in the building and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, according to city documents.

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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