EDC wants to avoid 'negative publicity'

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Alice Mayor Grace Saenz-Lopez delivered a message to the board of the Alice/Jim Wells County Economic Development Corporation Thursday, calling for the EDC to cooperate more with the city or lose its funding.

Saenz-Lopez, who is also a member of the EDC board, said the council is watching the cooperation between EDC Executive Director Dean Kruckenberg and Alice City Manager Albert Uresti closely.

"I will pass on this message from a majority of the council members, as to how they feel about the EDC," Saenz-Lopez said. "If they do not see, in the future, our EDC director working very, very closely with the city manager in promoting the city, the majority of the council is getting ready to pull the funding."

Saenz-Lopez's comments came shortly after a recommendation by EDC board member Lawrence Cornelius that any future issues between the city and the EDC be handled more discreetly to avoid "negative publicity."

"If we work this stuff out inside here, then we don't get the negative publicity in the paper," Cornelius said. "Because that makes us look bad and it makes the city look bad."

During the meeting, Uresti and Finance Director Hector Hinojosa questioned the board about specific items related to Kruckenberg's salary.

Board member Mike Day said the EDC would provide more specific information to answer the city's questions, which led to Saenz-Lopez's comments.

Uresti said the city only has the best of intentions in asking questions about the EDC budget.

"Our intention here has never been to provide any kind of negative connotations," Uresti said. "We have an obligation to the taxpayers to make sure the money is being allocated in the manner it's supposed to be."

Cornelius pointed out that Mayor Saenz-Lopez and Council Member Shane Valverde are members of the board and have access to all EDC information.

"There's absolutely no question in my mind about our responsibility to the taxpayers," Cornelius said. "The information is all there. The assumption is that your representatives on this board, and you have two, go back to the city and provide the city with the information. They have everything that any one of us has."

Day said Thursday a continuing problem with the board is a lack of attendance, particularly from the city's representatives.

"As a person who has probably only missed two meetings in the last three years, the least frequently attending two participants were always from the city," Day said. "So if that's going to change, that's wonderful."

Saenz-Lopez admitted she has missed some meetings, but said she should still be kept informed about EDC issues.

"Since I came to the council in 1999, it has always been my desire for the director to work with the city manager, and that has not happened," Saenz-Lopez said. "The communication has not been there."

Valverde was not present at Thursday's meeting.

Day and Cornelius said any communication problems between the city and the EDC could easily be resolved, if the city informs the EDC of its concerns.

"We need to be transparent, so everybody knows what's going on," Cornelius said. "Our interest is to grow the city and grow the county."