CHAMPS gets a big boost
After meeting earlier this week, the Orange County Hotel Occupancy Tax Committee set a public hearing for 10 a.m. Friday in Orange County commissioners’ court, 123 Sixth St. 

Committee member Bobby Fillyaw, also director of the Orange County Economic Development Corp., said the committee will make a recommendation based on the hearing in a future commissioners’ meeting. 

Funds for the 2008-09 fiscal year are $162,244. The reason the year seems off is because monies were tallied at the end of the fiscal year, mostly from delays caused by Hurricane Ike, Fillyaw said. 

Applications reviewed – five in all – were recommended with funding of $32,500, marked down by the committee from $52,500.
Remaining monies will be dedicated to funding the CHAMPS (Community Hands Assemble a Multipurpose Structure) project on Farm Road 1442, Fillyaw said. 

The committee knocked down some of its original requests for two main reasons, Fillyaw said; the main one being that the CHAMPS project is so important to the county. The other was based on tourism figures. 

“We have to assume we’re getting a certain bang for our buck,” he said. “And that there are a justifiable number of people attracted to the county for overnight stays.”

The committee recommended $7,500 for the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, marked down from the original request of $15,000; and $12,500 for the Heritage House, cut in half from the original $25,000.

Requests from three other groups were not changed by the committee: 

• Leaf and Petal / Ivy League Garden Clubs – $5,000.
• Lutcher Theater for the Performing Arts – $1,500.
• Orange County Economic Development Corp. – $6,000.
The proposed CHAMPS facility will replace the Old Timers Pavilion, an oft-used structure destroyed by Hurricane Rita in 2005.
The 11-acre strip of land owned by the county is envisioned to include rodeo grounds, a softball field, shooting range and community center.

State law specifies use of hotel occupancy taxes only for use with convention or visitor information centers, registration of convention delegates, sporting event expenses that substantially increase economic activity at hotels, certain portions of sporting facilities and shuttle services for convention activities. 

Use of funds also includes advertising, promotions of the arts and historical preservation activities that directly promote tourism and the convention industry.

Applications for the 2009-10 fiscal year will be made available in October. 

For application information, call the Orange County EDC at 883-7770.