Roving Reporter | "Navigation District Delays Rental Fee Changes" | Article and Photos by Jeanette Larson

ACND commissioners

At their July 3, 2017 meeting the main item on the Aransas County Navigation District's (ACND) agenda was "consider and possible action to approve request of Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce" to use the Rockport Festival grounds for the 43rd annual Seafair in October. Seafair would be the first festival affected by recent changes to how rental fees are calculated. The proposed changes would add $1.00 per paid entry to ticket prices. [See related post].

Commissioners Judith Vlasek and Malcolm Dieckow
Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and its Seafair committee stated that they "understand the ACND desire to be appropriately compensated" for use of the Festival grounds but noted that they start planning more than a year in advance. Citing financial commitments that have already been made and the need to make changes on all of the volunteer committees, as well as logistical challenges that need to be addressed, the Board of Directors requested that the ACND delay implementation of the new plans for a year. Chamber of Commerce staff noted several problems with the approved policies and asked that they be addressed prior to implementing the contract.

Commissioner Tommy Moore
Diane Probst, President & CEO of the Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce, noted that she had volunteered at last weekend's Art Festival to learn how they handled ticket sales at the gate. Probst commented that it was awkward to charge the extra dollar. She had contacted the State of Texas to find out which other festivals charged an extra fee but could find none. She was hoping to learn how other festivals handled the fee. Commissioner Judith Vlasek responded that cities use Hotel Occupancy Taxes to help pay for festival maintenance. The ACND does not have access to those tax dollars.

The Chamber offered to pay a flat $4,000 fee for 2017, about $1,500 more than they would currently be charged. The extra would be absorbed by the Chamber, allowing more time to figure out logistics for passing the rental charges on to attendees. Chairman Malcolm Dieckow responded that the ACND wants to work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Art Center. Harbor Master Keith Barrett also noted that the impact of festivals is on the entire area, not just the Festival grounds. Audience member, Sally Mitchell noted that the fee change only affected "the two largest users" of the grounds and asked that the flat fees be increased for other users to share the burden. Mitchell noted that increased entrance fees often decreases attendance and means less money is spent with the artists and vendors.

Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce staff make their request
Commissioner Tommy Moore stated that he's "been against this [increase] in the past," but is excited "be the business-like way" in which the changes are being handled. He is for "trying to get users to help pay for the messes" left during and after festivals and big events. Moore asked "are the Aransas County citizens going to pay for infrastructure or for garbage collection?" Commissioner Vlasek added that citizens may not realize that ACND is "limited to [taxing] ten cents per $100 assessed valuation" and that "no other [taxing] entity has that cap." It was noted that the current ta rate is just over half of the allowable rate. Commissioner Tony Dominguez noted that 80% of the people who attend the events are from outside of Aransas County. They should pay for the upkeep and cleanup, not Aransas County citizens, who pay through taxes and admission fees. He is opposed to any tax increases.

Concluding the conversation, Tommy Moore moved that the fee changes be "postponed for a year" and that the ACND "accept the $4000 offered by the Chamber of Commerce." Commissioner

Mickey Casterline seconded the motion and the vote was passed unanimously. The ACND committed to meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and the Rockport Center for the Arts to find constructive ways to get what is needed done.

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Jeanette Larson is a retired librarian and author. She and her husband, retired architect and artist Jim Larson, moved to Rockport several years ago for the birds, the beach, and the coastal community.





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