By Jan White
CROCKETT – Originally scheduled as Item 14 on the agenda, the audit report from Axley & Rode’s Managing Partner Eric Carver became the first topic of conversation in the CEIDC’s monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 12. Carver began his report by saying that the organization’s financials received a clean, unmodified auditor’s opinion, which is the highest rating an audit can receive.
Carver explained that an unmodified opinion means that the auditor has concluded that the financial statements are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with the applicable financial reporting framework. Carver said the audit was conducted using the materiality of significant items, and also by observing processes and procedures, controls, and policies. Carver praised the organization for monitoring and maintaining a healthy cash balance and reported that sales taxes were at 12%, which indicates a good economic trend for the local economy. Because many small businesses are relocating due to Covid and due to infrastructure improvements by the state of Texas, such as broadband, Carver encouraged the board to look for opportunities for regional partnerships. He also recommended that the board decide on what he called their “long-term philosophy.” Carver suggested that the board should decide if they want to save up their cash reserves for a large project or keep dishing out $400k or $500k in smaller incentive investments. “Where do you want to go philosophically as a group? It’s a tough call,” he said. Carver pointed out that since debt servicing isn’t an issue, the CEIDC is in a good financial position to draw in big opportunities that may present themselves.
The auditor did touch briefly on a letter to the management regarding their internal controls saying, “This is a finding from last year, and it’s already really been resolved. But because it did exist during the period in which the audit took place, we have to keep it as a comment this year. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about it. Basically, it was the pre-signed checks and those things. Y’all have got that resolved so it’s not really an issue. It’s just something we have to report again because it existed during the period of the audit.”
Moving on to other agenda items, the board voted to approve the certification of the fire suppression system which is a requirement every five years.
After a discussion on the appraisal of the welding equipment owned by the CEIDC, the board voted to contact Crockett ISD and see if they are willing to accept a donation of the equipment for their vocational education classes.
Agenda items tabled were Item 6. Plumbing proposals for the Tech Center, Item 9. Modifications of Onshore Contract, Item 10. Non-Disclosure Agreement, Item 11. A/C unit at Mary Allen Museum, Item 12. Action regarding Check Processing Procedures, and Item 13. Potential modifications to CEIDC by-laws: Articles 4, 5 and 6.
Although tabled during the meeting, Agenda Item 11 did raise questions about the condition of the Mary Allen College Museum located in the Westbrook House at 1503 South Fourth Street in Crockett. Ex-officio board member Wade Thomas showed fellow members several recent pictures he took of the property.
The pictures showed areas of disrepair, including broken porch tiles, peeling paint, a broken shutter, a broken window and window screen, missing sections of the back-porch roof, possible roof damage, and several other health and safety hazards. Thomas reported that there is no security system in place to protect the building from break-ins or vandalism and there is no fire suppression system.
“The property needs extensive repair,” said Thomas, who added “I don’t think (the building) is really serving the museum the way that we would like for it to be. No one is benefitting from these arrangements at this time. When was the last time anyone was in there to view all the memorabilia and artifacts in that building? I think we need to revisit whether this is the best way to spend taxpayer money or are there other options we could extend to them so we can enjoy and appreciate the artifacts.”
Thomas also pointed out portions of the lease that specify what upkeep responsibilities fall to the CEIDC and which ones fall on the tenant. Board president, Gerald Barkley interjected, stating that they have already been in discussions over the matter, going back at least six months. Executive Director James Gentry said that calls had been coming in regularly asking not only the CEIDC but also City Administrator John Angerstein what they were going to do regarding the situation. Barkley stated that the CEIDC should meet with the Mary Allen Museum board and discuss what everyone is responsible for so they can work together to find an equitable solution to the issue.
The last agenda item was about community outreach. The organization wants to hire a videographer to record and offer positive publicity on the accomplishments of the CEIDC over the past twenty years. Thomas suggested resuming community-wide workshops which would also help citizens understand what the CEIDC does, and how they could help partner with the CEIDC and support their local community. Although not an agenda item, Gentry stated that the budget allows for an industrial-sized gas line to be placed in the industrial park that will help attract businesses to that district. He also added that Workforce Solutions has expressed an interest in expanding its services in Crockett. Gentry also reached out to some of the local businesses asking them to partner with trade/vocational training for local high school students and graduates.