Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal
Officials with the City of Alice met with the Board of Directors of the Alice Visitors and Convention Bureau Thursday, and both sides aired out issues between the two entities.
Alice Finance Director Hector Hinojosa said his primary question was in the expenditure of salaries by the CVB and the Alice Chamber of Commerce.
Although the two are separate entities, both share the same employees.
Hinojosa said his review of the budgets of the two entities indicated they are spending 41 percent of their budget on salaries, more than the amount allowed by state law.
Alice City Council member Shane Valverde said the CVB should not feel threatened by the questions.
"We're not looking to pull anyone's funding," Valverde said. "We're very happy with the work the Chamber and the CVB are doing. We just want to practice open government both ways."
The CVB provided additional budget information to Hinojosa Thursday, and CVB President Yvette Johnson said she believed the salary numbers the city was focusing on were budgeted numbers, and did not reflect the amounts that were actually paid.
For their part, board members said most issues between the two entities could be resolved by the presence of a city representative at their meetings, something that has not regularly taken place over the past two years.
Board members also said the operations of the CVB are limited by the required repayment of $18,000 owed to the city.
The amount represented money overspent by the CVB for administrative costs, and in 2005 the city ordered the amount be repaid on a monthly payment plan.
Board members said the money was to repay overspending that occurred from 2001 to 2004, before the current board and staff were installed.
Board member Nena Pitts called the repayment "dirty laundry" that was thrown on them, and board member Marisa Gallego said the money could be better spent elsewhere.
"Financially, it's going to take years to get out of this debt," Gallego said. "And I don't want to spend the community's money on this."
Following the meeting, representatives on both sides said they were pleased with the increased communication and they expected all of the issues to be resolved.
Hinojosa said he intended to review the data provided to him by the board, but that he was already pleased with the answers he received to some of his questions.
"My concerns were answered," Hinojosa said. "I just wanted consistency. We're charged with making sure that we spend that money correctly, since we give it to the chamber."
Valverde said he was disappointed that no representatives of the Alice/Jim Wells Economic Development Corporation attended the meeting, but he was pleased with the discussions that did take place.
"I see that the chamber board and the staff here are going to great efforts to make sure to answer some questions, and likewise we need to make sure that we're accessible to them," Valverde said.
"If we're not keeping those open lines of communication, we're not going to be effective."
Johnson said the purpose of the meeting was to make sure everyone was "on the same page," and she felt that they were accomplishing that goal.
"I'm very comfortable with their input. I'm very glad that they are taking an initiative to work with us," Johnson said. "As we've clearly stated, it's a new board, a new council and a new city manager, and we need to make sure that we all work together to make sure we're right in line."