The meeting was held at the city municipal complex but was closed to the public and broadcast via an internet livestream.
The council first approved initial funding for an advertising campaign to support the reopening of Shenandoah businesses when county- and state-mandates closures are lifted.
“It’s, one, to let the community around us know, 'We’re open; come back and eat in our restaurants; come back and shop in our stores; we’re taking care of things.' It’s also to let our businesses know, 'We care about you, and we’re going to make Shenandoah a place where you can become successful; you can come back out of this stronger even than before,'” Council Member Michael McLeod said.
City Administrator Kathie Reyer said options including digital, print and billboard advertising were considered, with cost estimates for a monthlong program ranging from around $18,000 to $34,000 for a campaign across multiple media, including design costs between $1,700 and $1,850.
Mayor Ritch Wheeler said the city would likely see the largest benefits from online advertising and suggested developing a digital-only program through web searches and social media. After further discussion, McLeod made a motion to fund a digital advertising campaign through the city's local promotions fund with $17,000 from the city’s surplus funds. The campaign was approved in a 4-1 vote.
Council then discussed another promotion aimed at attracting visitors to the city while bringing business to local hotels and restaurants. The program would provide guests at Shenandoah hotels with a $25 voucher to be used at participating city restaurants within a certain time of their hotel visit. Council directed city staff to determine the scope of the plan and will consider the final details of the voucher program during its April 22 regular meeting.
Wheeler also said he wants the city to examine the possibility of deferring some restaurants' and retailers' property and sales taxes for a period this year to provide financial relief for the establishments following extended coronavirus-related closures or business reductions.
“I think we can at least look into that, and if there’s a possibility again to pump some revenue back into our local economy, I think that we’re going to need that. We’re going to need some sort of stimulus," Wheeler said.
To close the meeting, Wheeler said he hopes the city can hold a large community event in the future once social distancing guidelines are lifted and health officials deem it safe. He also provided an update on the city’s coronavirus case count, which he said remains at three, and commended city employees and partners for their response to the outbreak.
“We are still holding at only three cases, so that’s really, really encouraging even though Montgomery County has quite a few cases, Harris County has more,” Wheeler said. “There is a reason to be cautious in this area for sure, but ... Shenandoah is geographically isolated very well. If we do our part with social distancing and staying at home, then we can do a really good job of keeping that number at three.”