CVB to pay convention center costs

HARLINGEN — The Harlingen Convention & Visitors Bureau is helping the $16.7 million convention pay some big bills.

Last night, city commissioners approved staff’s request to take as much as $339,006 from the CVB’s $586,982 fund balance to pay costs as the city prepares to launch the project to build the convention center.

The transfer leaves the CVB, which operates on a $433,332 annual budget, with a fund balance of at least $247,976.

“It’s a healthy fund balance,” City Manager Dan Serna said yesterday before the meeting.

Serna said the fund balance is used to pay one-time expenses.

“I don’t see any concern with utilizing the fund balance from CVB for this item considering it’s a one time expense — not recurrent,” Serna said.

The money will fund architectural fees as well as design and inventory costs, Serna said.

The CVB’s fund balance will pay architect Geoffrey H. Butler, whose payment is based on a percentage of the convention center’s construction costs, about $40,000.

In July, construction costs jumped from about $10.7 million to $12.7 million to fund added features such as a brick exterior, a pavilion and an expanded porte-cochere. As a result, Serna said, the architect’s fees increased in proportion to construction costs.

Serna said an estimated $100,000 will buy inventory such as silverware, plates and tablecloths to help stock the convention center.

Meanwhile, a $200,000 contingency fund will help design two entryway walls, possibly with a mosaic, Serna said.

Serna said any unspent money will return to the CVB’s fund balance.

The CVB’s expenditures will not affect the department as the city prepares to launch the construction project expected to be complete by September 2018, Serna said.

“I trust what the city manager and commissioners will decide,” CVB Executive Director Cassandra Cuellar said earlier this week. “Whatever they decide we’ll work with. I look forward to the convention center.”

Serna said the CVB, charged with promoting the city to draw tourism, is preparing for the convention center’s opening.

The department has earmarked money to promote the city while drafting a digital marketing plan, Serna said.

Serna said the city is expected to launch the construction project next week.

While the city funds construction of the 44,436-square-foot convention center, San Antonio-based BC Lynd Hospitality will build an attached 150-room Hilton Garden Inn.

As part of its finance plan, the city will use $9.7 million generated through the Community Improvement Board’s sales tax and $3.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue to pay off the debt.

The city is also using $1.96 million from property tax revenue generated through Harlingen’s three tax increment financing reinvestment zones to buy for the convention center’s eight-acre site at the corner of Brazil Road and Teege Avenue.