Mayor David Carabajal responded to Keeney’s comment that he should be recalled because of possible conflicts of interest.
Carabajal said the state legislation that approved the bylaws of the Bee Development Authority included a paragraph in Article III that one of the four appointees to the BDA board must be a member of the City Council.
Carabajal said he is a member of the council. He was elected by the council in May for a one-year term.
Carabajal pointed out that he is not the first mayor to sit on the BDA board. He said Santiago “Jimbo” Martinez was on the BDA board when he was mayor and he is fairly certain that Mayor Kenneth Chesshir also sat on the BDA board.
Carabajal also assured citizens that any time a vote comes before the BDA board that might conflict with his position on the City Council, he has abstained from voting.
“I’m on there by state statute,” the mayor said. “State law requires that a City Council member must be on that board. I was on that board long before I was mayor.”
Carabajal also pointed out that he was appointed to that position by a unanimous vote of his fellow council members.
As to the claim that the City Council has fired three city managers recently, Carabajal said Martinez voted for the first two to leave the post. In fact, former City Manager Ford Patton was not fired. He resigned.
Carabajal also said that Martinez’s comment about the council’s changing the meeting date for the adoption of a budget and the setting of a city property tax rate was made because of recent changes in the city staff.
Finance Director Caron Vela told the council she could use the extra day to complete her work on the budget.
Also, Carabajal said he understood that every member of the council was interested in approving at least a small decrease in the tax rates for property owners.
The mayor said he is not recommending that the city purchase water from the wells drilled on BDA property because he supports drilling wells within the city limits.
The mayor said he is not opposed to building a reverse osmosis plant to filter chlorides and dissolved solids from the deeper Jasper aquifer.
But he prefers to drill wells into the shallower Evangeline aquifer because it does not need the same level of treatment.
Carabajal said the city could drill up to five wells in different parts of town and be able to reduce the $0.87 per 1,000 gallons of raw water the city now pays the City of Corpus Christi for water from its reservoir system.
That savings could then be used to pay for either all or most of the cost of the construction of an RO plant.
“I just want to take the less expensive route first,” Carabajal said.
Local attorney and longtime Bee County Chamber of Commerce board member Tom Beasley responded to Keeney’s claim that the chamber is considering plans to ask the city for $400,000 of city tax money.
“Where did that come from?” Beasley asked. “There is no possibility, none, nada, zilch that the chamber would ask for or receive $400,000. But Mr. Keeney is the one who made the unsubstantiated charge and it was included in this unfortunate article without challenge or verification.”
Beasley criticized the Bee-Picayune for quoting someone without inquiry as to the reasonableness or accuracy of the quote.
“The chamber has received a number of cheap shots recently in letters to the editor and this is yet another phony claim,” Beasley said.
“First of all, Beeville is NOT a failed school,” said Beeville Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Sue Thomas.
She was answering Keeney’s claim that the district is failing.
“Our district received the ‘Met Standard’ score from the TEA this year, the same score as the other two Bee County school districts,” Thomas said.
“The only other score available for school districts was the ‘Improvement Required’ score, which one district in Bee County received.”
“Mr. Keeney was not at the school board meeting in which we discussed our ratings from last year,” Thomas continued. “Had he been there, or read the article in the newspaper, he would have had that information.”
“More importantly, we have excellent teachers and a sound academic program,” the superintendent said.
BISD students often graduate with two-year college degrees and graduates go on to excel at major universities. The high school also offers advanced placement and dual credit classes.
Thomas said the district does have challenges but the BISD had pioneered innovative programs and collaborated with schools such as the George West and Gregory-Portland districts.
“Our schools are good,” Thomas said. “It is very easy for politicos to spout opinions on everything from city government to schools, especially when they have not been part of the process or even visited a classroom. I have an open invitation to any community member who would like to visit about our schools and our commitment to the children in our community.”
BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez had a busy day Thursday but also responded to Keeney’s claims regarding the county’s economic development efforts.
“The BDA has made a proposal to the City of Beeville to sell the city water at $0.31 per 1,000 gallons,” Montez said.
“That is not a subsidy,” the director said. The city would be paying the BDA a fair price for a commodity. “That is not a grant or a contribution, it’s a business deal.”
Montez said the city now pays much more to Corpus Christi than it would pay for the same amount of water if purchased from the BDA.
As an example, he mentioned going to the store and paying $1.20 for a bottle of water.
“The BDA is not broke!” Montez said, responding to Keeney’s claim that the authority is in the hole financially.
“The audit report ending Dec. 31, 2012, as performed by the firm of Lovvorn & Kieschnick, CPAs, under “Statement of Net Position,” cites current assets to include cash and equivalents, money markets, lease receivables and investments at $2,531,226, total capital assets of $7,174,324 for total assets of $9,705,550.”
Compare that to total current liabilities of $26,199 and zero long-term liabilities, Montez said.
The BDA director said the audit will not be released for public scrutiny until the board approves it at its meeting next Thursday.
As far as the authority living off its own means, Montez said it has generated sufficient revenue to maintain its operating and maintenance expenses in the last several years.
Grants the authority has received from the Beeville Economic Improvement Corporation and approved by the city have been used to perform capital improvements at the facilities at Chase Field.
Those improvements include work done on hangars, warehouses, a paint booth and airport navigation aids.
“After the renovations, Sikorsky Aerospace Services Inc., a subsidiary of a Fortune 500 company, employed up to 305 employees for six years with a total payroll of approximately $60 million. If a dollar circulates three times in a rural area, the $60 million turns into a $180 million impact.”
Montez said that has been the aviation-related economic contribution to Beeville and Bee County.
“Did we take the money in vain?” the director asked. “We used the money to improve community assets and to generate jobs.”
“Surely the BDA was not alone in this development. It was a partnership that included the BEIC board of directors, the Beeville City Council, the Bee County commissioners and Coastal Bend College.”
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.