By Jan White
CROCKETT – During the August 9 meeting of the CEIDC, Executive Director James Gentry presented a punch-list of items identified as necessary repairs to the Mary Allen Museum before the building could be opened to the public. Gentry and Museum board member David Beaulieu performed a ‘walk-through’ of the building and grounds and made a list of repairs, which they presented to the CEIDC board at the meeting.
Dr. Thelma Douglass spoke on behalf of the museum, thanking the CEIDC for their cooperation in making some of the requested repairs. She also stated that volunteers would be working with Beaulieu and Pastor Johnie Wood of the First Presbyterian Church from Wednesday through Friday to help with repairs.
Also, Douglass presented two guests who were there to speak on behalf of a program the museum hopes to implement – The Mary Allen Educational Institute. Douglass believes that the museum should carry on as an institute of higher learning and in her words, “use the people here in our community and bring the workforce right here in our community and be able to get jobs for different people.” Douglass shared that there were many things in the works to help make that happen.
During the discussion, Michael Ewing, a long-term substitute teacher for CISD, who serves on the steering committee for the museum, spoke on the possibility of sponsoring an “Artist in Residency Program.” The program was created to allow an artist to live and work in the Westbrook Heritage House. This artist in residence will also act as the activities director and design programs hosted at the Heritage House. Alexandria Hubbard, designated as the first artist in residence, also spoke. Alexandria holds a bachelor’s degree from Prairie View A&M and uses her strong background in the mental health field that helps her “navigate social and cultural needs.” The residency is a year-long endeavor.
Regarding the HVAC system at the Heritage House, the board voted to approve the purchase and installment of a three-and-a-half-ton Goodman cooling unit for the building. Gentry also read an extensive list of repairs that need to be done before the building is habitable, including replacement of the back door, foundation repairs to the front bricks, roof issues, power washing, replacing broken windows, and sheetrock repairs, and plumbing repairs.
Douglass also introduced Dr. Angela Hale, who, along with her husband, owns a business that trains fiberoptics specialists in the Dallas area. Hale said that she felt there were opportunities in the Crockett area to train and retain workers. She has worked to form co-ops that bring low-cost broadband to rural areas. Her current project in Arkansas brought together thirteen co-ops who put together $1.3M in infrastructures, creating jobs that will stay in that area. She offered to speak to interested parties subsequent to the meeting.
The board also approved the modifications to the CEIDC by-laws regarding Article 6.03 accepting emails as a form of board communication and Article 7.03 approving the changing of the wording regarding audits of the Corporation. Attorney for the CEIDC, Bill Pemberton, was on hand to offer answers to any questions the board might have, but since the Crockett City Council had already approved the changes, CEIDC acceptance of those changes was merely a formality.
A discussion followed regarding some of the details of the 2023 budget. During the discussion, Wade Thomas addressed the group about two items – one labeled “Draw Note” and the other “Prospect Incentives.” “Those numbers,” said Thomas, “up to 2016 were $1.5M. At that point the City Council wanted that number dropped to $600k. That number has been carried on over the last five years. We had Mr. Bridges here, discussing a line of credit. Not to step on any toes, but we don’t have a line of credit. The $600k has been carried through the years more or less as a line of credit. It’s really not, and I’d like to see both of those numbers disappear. They don’t really exist. In the same meeting, Mr. Bridges said, ‘Y’all are good with us.’ That’s all I needed to hear. We can go to our banker for a short-term loan when we need it. I’d like to see those numbers disappear because they zero each other out and don’t really represent anything.”
Additional discussion was held about the need to streamline other line items, but because of the deadline for presenting the budget to the City Council, it was questionable as to whether the changes could be made before the due date.
The motion was made and seconded that the budget be approved as written pending the removal of the two $600k line items.
Because there was no amount given to the CEIDC for the cost of the forensic audits requested by the city, those numbers could not be included in the budget and will have to be addressed as needed at a future date.
Before the meeting adjourned, Thomas addressed the board, “One of the items that I had hoped would be on the agenda tonight just didn’t get there, but it’s important to me. I would like to see how everyone feels about having a public meeting before our next scheduled meeting, and that has to do with our Prosperity loan. I think everybody knows I’d like to see that paid off. I want to get that before City Council sooner than later. We pay interest every day, and I would like that to go away.” Thomas went on to say that he hoped they could have the additional meeting as soon as possible.