What started out as a request from Bee Cave City Manager Clint Garza for direction on how to move forward with a $1 million proposal for a marketing campaign for the city quickly turned into an at times heated debate among City Council and residents regarding the best use of the city's hotel tax funds.
In the end, council voted 4-2 in favor of a $500,000 proposal, with Mayor Monty Parker and Council Members Kara King, Andrew Clark and Andrea Willott voting in favor and Council Members Jon Cobb and Mayor Pro Tem Bill Goodwin voting against.
That was after Parker's initial motion to approve the full $999,530 package, which failed in a 3-3 vote, with King, Cobb and Goodwin voting no.
Following the vote, Parker said the proposal and budget would have to be rewritten and resubmitted to the city.
Garza said there is not yet a timeline for when the branding campaign might be submitted to his office, but said he thinks it should be soon.
"They will resubmit the specs of the agreement based on the new budget, and then if we agree to the terms we will accept it," Garza said.
Sonesta Bee Cave Hotel owner Adrian Overstreet said he spoke with representatives from PR Boutique after the Nov. 12 meeting, and he anticipates a reworked proposal fitting the new $500,000 budget to be sent to Garza's office by the end of this week.
Documents attached to council’s Nov. 12 agenda state City Council was to weigh authorization of an agreement with PR Boutique, a firm that has been working on a comprehensive branding campaign for Bee Cave since April.
“The proposed campaign will utilize multiple media venues, including print, broadcast and digital, to perform services under the term of the agreement and promote the City of Bee Cave as an overnight tourist destination,” a city document states. “The not-to-exceed cost of this agreement is $999,530, and the term is for 12 months, unless either party chooses to terminate with 30 days written notice.”
Even though council ended up approving a cheaper package, it is still not clear what the future holds for the tourism marketing landscape in Bee Cave. Several council members spoke against having to make the decision of how to allocate the city's hotel tax fund, including Cobb and King, during the Nov. 12 meeting.
That sentiment harkens back to June, when the council unanimously endorsed an idea from the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce and Overstreet to create a nonprofit corporation called the Bee Cave Convention and Visitor Bureau, or BCCV.
Per the terms of the original one-year agreement between the city and the bureau, the bureau would have managed 85% of the city’s future hotel occupancy tax fund collections as well as 85% of the money already in the hotel tax reserve funds, which would help manage the city’s hotel occupancy tax fund.
That deal fell through in October. The chamber had withdrawn its application days after a late September City Council decision in which Mayor Monty Parker said there are still many more details to work out before an agreement can move forward, and the agenda item would be brought forth at a future meeting.
"The contracts just got more complicated, and it became apparent that there was going to be substantial liability for the chamber," Overstreet said Oct. 7. "The city needed to protect its interest, and I don't begrudge that, but we're an all-volunteer organization, and we don't have any staff."
During the Nov. 12 meeting, several residents spoke during public comment, and while the idea of a $1 million marketing campaign was not universally rejected, skepticism was plentiful.
"The big problem I have with this branding campaign is I don't know what it is you're branding." Bee Cave resident Carrell Killebrew said.
But the branding campaign also had its defenders, including Overstreet and Camille Mandigo of PR Boutique.
Mandigo delivered an impassioned plea to council, stating the city is sitting on what she described as a "world-class marketing campaign."
"You've got a great brand, and this is completely marketable ... and it will work," she said. "Seguin's doing it, and San Marcos is doing it, and everybody else is doing it, and you've got the funds."
In a related agenda item during the Nov. 12 meeting, council approved the allocation of $20,000 for a local map package from the Bee Cave Chamber of Commerce.
A city document states the intent of the map product is to increase market the perception of Bee Cave as an overnight tourist destination, help extend hotel stays and encourage guests to visit local attractions.