Houston Mayor Bill White asked the county in July to contribute $10 million to the project by joining the city's East Downtown Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone, which includes the stadium's proposed site.
Harris County Commissioners El Franco Lee and Sylvia Garcia tentatively agreed late last month to join the project as long as the city agreed to conditions including restricting the use of county money to building the public amenities and infrastructure serving the stadium, rather than the physical structure itself. That could include water and sewer lines for the stadium, or the parking lots and tree-lined plazas surrounding it.
Other conditions include guarantees that Texas Southern University will be allowed to play home games at the stadium and that 15 percent of the seats never will be sold for more than the average price of a movie ticket. The county also wants Dynamo to be held responsible for all facility upkeep and proposes the team fund such repairs through a monthly fee in addition to the lease.
Dynamo president and general manager Oliver Luck said the team is amenable to working with the county on the conditions that involve its operations.
White spokesman Frank Michel said the city is reasonably optimistic it will be able to reach an agreement with the county.
"I think we're pretty close on almost every point they have, and, certainly, we're not in radical disagreement, but there's just things to work through," Michel said.
Among the details being discussed are ways to define affordable tickets and to ensure the facility is properly maintained, said Andy Icken, Houston's deputy director for planning and development in the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
Icken said negotiations are going well enough that he believes the Harris County Commissioners Court could vote on the proposal at its Jan. 27 or Feb. 10 meeting.
The Harris County Republican Party announced Friday that it opposed public funding for the Dynamo stadium, calling the project a "$20 million corporate welfare program."
Republican County Judge Ed Emmett said he would vote "no" if the Dynamo asked for a $10 million donation from the county's general fund. But he said the TIRZ proposal is more complicated than that as it involves tax money the county would not otherwise receive and because the money may be used for infrastructure updates that would be needed anyway if the stadium were built.
"We'll have to wait and see what finally comes out of all the negotiations that are going on," Emmett said.
Commissioners Court protocol dictates that formal proposals to participate in such projects must come from the commissioner whose precinct would be affected. The lion's share of the site is in Lee's precinct, while a smaller portion is in Garcia's.
As long as those two commissioners want to participate in the TIRZ, the court is likely to sign off on the proposal.
The power each commissioner exercises over these budgets is as absolute as it can get in a democracy. That's because each commissioner respects the turf of the others and expects his or her turf to be respected in return.
"El Franco Lee knows his precinct better than I do," [Commissioner Steve] Radack said. "If he has the money and wants to do something, I'm not going to second-guess him."