It seems as if few things come easy in the council chambers of Alice City Hall these days.

The Alice City Council was unanimous in their vote Thursday night to open the entire Multi-Use Complex for public use, including the water park area, by approving an amendment to the 2016-17 fiscal budget which reflects changes for the complex’s opening.

However, a presentation of the budget amendment by city staffers was cut short because of a dispute between council members Yolanda Moran and Elida Garza with mayor Jolene Vanover over a seven-minute speaking time limit she imposed.

Vanover said each council member would be allowed only seven minutes to speak or ask questions on the matter in hopes of speeding the meeting along.

The confrontation began when Garza began asking questions during the presentation. Vanover stepped in and asked city attorney David Towler to begin Garza’s allotted seven minutes.

Moran interrupted the discussion to ask Towler about imposing speaking time limits on council members, and if it is part of a city policy. When Towler said that the city doesn’t have policies or rules in place for procedures during meetings, the mayor said the task of overseeing meetings is her’s.

“So we refer back to standard Robert’s Rules,” Vanover said. “And if you look it up, that’s what it is, because there is no policy.”

“We have no adopted standard policy?” Moran asked to which Towler agreed. “Where did council approve timing ourselves in how to conduct our meetings?”

Vanover again stated that managing city meetings is her responsibility.

“It’s at the discretion of the mayor to conduct the meeting the way I want to,” Vanover stated.

Moran and Garza argued that the council had not adopted Robert’s Rules of Order, which are the universally accepted rules of order for deliberative assemblies like council meetings. Towler said that while the city agreed to use Robert’s Rules as a guide in 1979, it never adopted the rules and policies.

“We have not adopted any rules,” Towler said. “The two rules we have are both from the (city) charter. One said the mayor presides at the meeting, but there is no definition of what presides means.”

“So until then, we have no adopted policies of how to conduct our meetings?” Moran asked.

“So I preside over the meeting,” the mayor proclaimed.

“But, the local government code states the council can speak, and I believe, Mrs. Vanover, you would agree in the spirit of transparency the public has a right to know what is going on and the only we can do that is if we ask questions,” Moran said.

Garza asked Towler what the city should do avoid future confusion. Towler replied, “I would advise the city to adopt some rules.”

“Until then?” Garza asked.

The mayor stepped in again.

“Until then, we spend taxpayers’ dollars for 11 hours to hear one person speak,” she said. “I’m just concerned about our taxpayers, because they’re paying you (Towler) by the hour. Right? And we’re paying city staff by the hour and so taxpayers are paying for this meeting.”

Council member Cynthia Carrasco spoke up and said she took offense to being told that she was possibly wasting tax dollars by asking questions during meetings which drew applause from members of the audience.

Before the council finally voted, the mayor attempted to quit the audience and Alice police chief Rex Ramon was asked to step into the council chambers as a precaution. Garza also briefly interrupted the meeting to ask about a young man who stepped into the chambers to recorded the heated exchanges between the council members and the mayor.

The council finally agreed that moving forward with the Multi-Use Complex was the right thing to do. Carrasco made a motion to accepted the amended budget, Garza seconded the motion and it passed.