League City City Council voted on several coronavirus-related items at its April 28 regular meeting, including economic relief for area hotels and a resolution allowing the council to issue temporary rules to protect the well-being of area residents and business owners. The city’s Emergency Turnaround Task Force met earlier in the day to discuss possible first action items to supplement Texas’ slow reopening of businesses.
The council also voted on other items during its regular meeting, including additional funds for the new animal care and adoption center.
City shoots down hotel economic recovery program
The council on April 28 voted not to enact economic relief measures for area hotels, citing a desire not to give aid to certain businesses above others amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Mayor Pat Hallisey was contacted by Kalpesh Patel, representing Hampton Inn and Candlewood Suites, and Nick Patel, representing Scottish Inn and Suites, with a request for financial assistance for all local hotels that owe occupancy taxes to the city for the period of Jan. 1 through March 31 by the end of April.
Both letters from Nick and Kalpesh requested the city forgive the occupancy taxes due April 30. The owners both said they chose to keep their hotels open and have tried to minimize operating costs but said they “are struggling with plummeting occupancy levels.”
League City currently has four operating hotels: Scottish Inn and Suites, Hampton Inn, Candlewood Suites and South Shore Harbor Resort. South Shore closed in mid-March, but city staff has not received an assistance request from the hotel. The four hotels will owe a total of about $108,000 by April 30, per the agenda item fact sheet.
Hallisey said providing aid to struggling businesses is a slippery slope: He feared business owners would next be requesting sales and property tax relief, he said. There was some debate among council members; Council Member Hank Dugie echoed Hallisey’s sentiment, saying council should not pick winners and losers among local industries, while councilor Nick Long said that providing aid to hotels is an investment in an industry that brings people to League City.
“I don’t think in good conscience we can do it unless we can do it for every business in town,” Hallisey said during the meeting. “Like it or dislike it, we as a city have responsibilities just like those businesses do. ... We’ve got to look out for the city as a whole.”
Other coronavirus-related measures include the passage of a resolution that authorizes the council to “temporarily suspend ordinances and adopt rules to protect the health and well-being of residents and businesses in League City.” The resolution allows the council to issue temporary rules meant to aid in continuity of city operations, provision of city services and assisting local businesses.
Both President Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott declared states of emergency at the federal and state levels March 13. The council has this power until the state of disaster or emergency is lifted.
Emergency Turnaround Task Force discusses ways to support local businesses
Members of the city of League City’s Emergency Turnaround Task Force met several hours before the City Council meeting. Due to the fast-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been difficult for the task force to take concrete action until this week, said David Johnson, the task force chair and a League City resident.
“I think we’re finally at a point where we can start moving forward,” he said at the task force meeting.
The task force plans to help guide the city gradually back to normalcy through the fulfillment of three prongs. These prongs address the readiness of businesses and organizations to resume operations, the support of citizens and the level of compassion shown by the community.
Johnson suggested forming a group of people with business expertise that could help prepare business owners and entrepreneurs for future success. The group’s focus would not be on sanitation or safety practices as they relate to coronavirus spread prevention. Group activities would involve outsiders coming into a business, examining operations and providing feedback meant to encourage growth for that business, he said.
The group would be available to businesses as requested. No formal action was taken to create the group at the task force or City Council meetings.
Citizens have a personal responsibility to take the time to know what is expected of them as businesses reopen in terms of revised operations and new best practices, Johnson added. This can be accomplished through signage outlining new expectations. The city would be responsible for creating this signage, which was briefly discussed during the City Council meeting.
He encouraged residents to shop local as much as possible as the first phase of the state’s reopening begins.
“League City’s got everything the mall’s got,” Johnson said during the task force meeting. “It’s time to support League City.”
City animal shelter receives additional funding via change order
In other business, League City’s new animal care and adoption center will receive more than $86,000 in additional funding after the council approved a change order with the building’s construction company. Upon completion, the center was built for $1 million less than its allotted budget, but city staff members said unexpected complications occurred that necessitated the change order.
Among other things, the money granted via change order will go toward replacing a stainless steel countertop, improving drainage and landscaping in the dog exercise area, and several security- and safety-related upgrades.
Stacy Warner, an at-large member of the city’s animal advisory committee, gave an update on the center's activities during the meeting. Warner said League City Pets Alive moved into its new facility March 13, and shelter staff looks forward to expanding community partnerships and work with school groups starting in the fall.
Warner added animal intake was slightly down in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the first quarter of 2019 and the coronavirus pandemic might be playing a factor in the decrease.