A look at the posted agenda for the coming Thursday meeting of the Alice City Council lists among its items for business the following: Hear presentations relating to opening scenarios for the Multi-Use Complex and (a) consider and discuss sustainability of the MUC taking into account available funds, investment, profit margins, fees, community support, marketability; (b) consider and act upon recommendations for council consideration directing its future operations as to potential seasonal or other operating scenarios including directing or authorizing the City Manager to open the MUC, setting conditions of operations, and amending the budget to account-to-account for revenues and authorized expenditures for the fund.; and (c) consider and and act upon and authorizing the City Manager to negotiate lease agreements between the City of Alice and the Alice Swim Team for use of the Natatorium.
The above posted agenda item is quite a mouthful for the Council's plate with huge associated financial, legal and contractual responsibilities and obligations that will fall onto the entire city.
One would assume, or at least hope, that any elected public official or governmental body facing such serious decisions, would conduct its actions with the upmost of careful due diligence and not rush into any decision making.
However, according to sources familiar with city affairs, there seems to be at least two council members who are apparently supporting the immediate opening of the entire MUC/natatorium with no set conditions or contingencies on costs to the city.
The questions such possibilities raise are enormous. Some political observers are also asking if the council majority has already determined its path of direction by the commitments perhaps made during campaigning for support. Have they, in essence, painted themselves and the city into a corner through a failure to study and confer on all financials and related matters prior to any statements and actions.
Sources point to a message sent and posted by a swim group leader last week that indicates that the natatorium would hopefully open to them for practices and available for meets. What is questionable, is on what basis did the swim team leader reach such conclusions? What was being anticipated only falls within the authority of our city council. Who was being communicated with within the city council that gave the swim leader any potential assurances that the natatorium reopening was imminently pending?
The other problematic area revolves around the necessity for council members to gain better insight into the total financial condition and status of all municipal departments and operations before setting and committing to a given project or program priority. At Saturday's special council meeting, city finance personnel attempted to present council with current financial summaries and similar reports. Unfortunately, council members spent less than 15 minutes on the agenda item and asked very few questions connected in any way to city finances.
This is relevant due to the fact that the new council members have been in office barely two weeks with no real review of all financial documents and reports or open discussion, and yet, may feel prepared to now, at this point, make a far reaching pivotal choice for our community regarding the MUC. This should raise concern of taxpayers.
City staff has strongly urged the Council to hold a special workshop on both finances and the MUC before proceeding. Sound and responsible management and decision making demands that due diligence happen for everyone.