The following is a transcript from a portion of the May 22 Sealy City Council meeting prepared by Sealy News editor April Towery.
Mayor Janice Whitehead announced Item No. 15: Discussion and possible action to appoint members to the Sealy Economic Development Corporation.
We had several applications and one person signed up to speak. That would be Becky Funk.
Becky Funk: The City Council, you know, y’all had a state of the city and the direction of whether we grow or whatever and then I think the EDC also promotes growth in the city and they receive tax money so it concerns me that whenever I look at who’s on the board right now of the EDC, there’s two council members. So two council members is one-third of the council member vote and two EDC members, assuming they have six, is a third of the EDC. So these two people have one-third of the vote here and one-third of the vote for the EDC board, and I just think that’s, we need to have it where, if you’re on city council you’re already giving your opinion or your vote or your ideas. I think the boards need to be clear that people who aren’t already on council have some contributions to make. That’s just my opinion, but I hope you think about it while you’re voting.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: We had several applications come in for the EDC board and we have four openings. According to the EDC bylaws, we can have two members of council –
Becky Funk: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: I’d really like for us to rotate council members. You know, if somebody would like a chance to be on the economic development board, I’d like to give them that opportunity. Council, do you have anything you would like to contribute before I make a recommendation?
Councilman Chris Noack: I was just wondering if the applicants would be able to speak.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: I think quite a few of them are here tonight. Would the applicants be willing to speak? Can we do that? That’s a thought. Adam Burttschell is not here tonight. Mr. McCready, would you like to say anything?
Wyn McCready: Sure. I have served on the EDC in the past. I did serve as a member of council. I’m very interested in getting involved again. I want to do that for several reasons. I’m a little concerned about the direction the EDC is going in. My understanding is the EDC should be meeting on a monthly basis and hasn’t met since December. It’s also my understanding that there’s not a lot of activity or anything going on at this particular time to promote Sealy or promote commerce within our city. Commerce to me is very, very important. It’s a tax base that can generate quite a bit of retail sales tax, which can solve many of the city’s problems, far more so than building a bunch of houses. I would like to see some growth in our city. I’d like to serve and am very, very interested if y’all are interested in having me.
Mischelle McCarthy: I’m eager to serve in any way that I can. When I was running for city council I educated myself about what was going on in Sealy and I was really taken aback by the EDC. Last year they skipped six meetings. This year they just had their first one for the year last Tuesday. I know they are required to have a meeting once a month. They get one-third of the tax revenue. Show up at the meetings. Let’s come together, let’s be in each other’s faces, let’s come up with ideas. Let’s go out and talk to the citizens and find out what they want because I can assure you it is not another Mexican restaurant. It is not another industrial place. We do not want to be Pasadena. I just think we need to get new, fresh people in there looking in all different direction.
Diane Wuthrich: I learned a simple math lesson on the logistics of money that is flowing into the Sealy coffers. Please correct me if I’m wrong; I never did very well in math in school. The first amount of money that comes in is the sales tax that is generated by the businesses here in Sealy. I believe that it’s 1 ½ percent and of that the EDC gets half a percent. We found out after a public information request that this amount of money varies between $50,000 to $68,000 in the months that they were able to provide us so far for this year. No new businesses are currently on the horizon, as stated by one of the EDC member recently at a city council meeting. As a matter of fact, most of the money that’s going into EDC is being forwarded to a business that was purchased or that was taken care of mostly last year for business improvements, land development, whatever, that they were promised. We desperately need this money, folks. I am retired and I am also on a very limited income because of the retirement. I see how much the utilities are going to have to go up to try and get that money in the Sealy city coffers up to the three months that we need that is a safe haven for us to have our expenses. I do not think we have had as effective a leadership or as effective and enthusiastic a looking for new businesses for this area. I’m really tired of hearing “let’s keep Sealy little.” We can’t afford it anymore. It’s just that simple. So I looked into it; I thought it would be an interesting thing to do. I have quite a few contacts in Katy and the surrounding areas through businesses and activities that I’m involved in. I feel that I might be able to help locate some businesses and start some communication that has not gone on for quite some time and improving our business and our money situation here in Sealy.
Sterling Schiller: I’ve been on the EDC for two years, maybe a little more. I’ve enjoyed my time here. I enjoy volunteering my time. I’ve worked for Katy ISD for 29-plus years so I’ve seen a lot of growth in that area and I do financials for Katy ISD. So when I stepped into my position with the EDC one of the first things I was presented was the financials for the EDC and the budget. It was very familiar to me because I’ve seen it with what I do with my regular job. I’ve seen the growth and so forth, and looking at the dollars. I will say that the EDC, there’s a lot of things that happen in the background that you don’t always see. The EDC, from my standpoint, I want to see growth in the city. There’s specific areas that I think in five, 10 years will be huge. I hope you consider my re-application; I’d like to serve another term.
Mayor Janice Whitehead noted that applicants Debra Luckett and Mark Bowles were not present.
We have two council members who have applied. Mr. Koy, would you like to say something?
Councilman Larry Koy: I’m trying to think of a nice way to put this. The EDC has done, I believe, a great job. The two people who are vying to get on it sitting there have translated their enthusiasm to Ms. Funk over here which is trying to tear down the EDC. You can shake your head no but that’s true.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: Can we not point fingers, Mr. Koy? This is not a transaction.
Mischelle McCarthy: I should not – you should not sit up there and –
Mayor Janice Whitehead: That’s enough, that’s enough. Mr. Koy, can you just tell us why you want to be on the EDC?
Councilman Larry Koy: Here’s the deal. The EDC has been around a long time. The EDC has a director. The director is doing an excellent job. She has gone out and gotten some Class A companies: Sika, [SNC] Lavalin, Prasek’s. Now we have Starbuck’s Coffee and Chicken Express. She has been talking to these people for months. What y’all don’t know is she falls under what you call a gag order because when she gets these people, lines them up, they want to go through due process. They want to buy land. She can’t divulge who they are or whatever. She knew months back that these companies were coming in. These companies looked at the sales tax. We went from 1 or 2 percent up to about 21 percent or something like that over the last several months. One-third of the money that comes in goes to the EDC and I would say 90 percent of it goes right back out to the city of Sealy. There was a gas line put in from I-10 to 3013, a lift station put in. that was over $850,000. There’s frontage roads that were put in, and that came up to $1.2 million. There’s a lot of money that was going out from the EDC for this. The EDC is doing a great job. [Councilman] John [Hinze] is on it, I’m on it. We’ve been around. We’ve got experience … I’m trying to be nice. This board has done a lot for the city of Sealy. I’ve been the president since Mr. Hinze passed away. There’s a lot of work in the background that people don’t really know that takes place. These people go out and they call, they get new businesses to come to town. It takes a lot of footwork. Sika, if it hadn’t been for [EDC Director] Kim [Meloneck], we wouldn’t have got that probably. It would have gone away. If they want to call somebody, they call her. They don’t call anybody else. They have plans in the future to expand that from what they have now to a $42 million plant. They’re going to expand that; the next one should be in the neighborhood of $72 million. Nothing is really going on to the east of here or to the north. The only thing really is 3538. You have a lot of knowledge and the three people besides me that are on the board right now, I’d trust them to do anything. They ask questions. They do a lot of work. I’m very proud of the three people that are on the board right now. I don’t know what the movement is. I do, in the background, in the back of my mind. I guarantee you one thing. You’re going to lose a lot of experience and you’re going to lose a lot of knowledge and you’re going to lose a lot of faith in the people that are pushing this thing. I mean it. That’s all I’ve got to say.
Becky Funk: For the record, I never said that they didn’t do a good job. I didn’t even mention that.
Mischelle McCarthy: Neither did I.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: OK, OK, one last candidate. Dee Anne Lerma, would you tell us why you would like to be on the EDC board?
Councilwoman Dee Anne Lerma: I would like to be on the EDC board and participate in the growth in our community. I’ve got 30 years of business development experience and I think I would be an asset to the EDC. I’m excited about the growth coming this way, however I do think it needs to be controlled growth. I would just love to be a part of it and I actually like the idea of rotating council members. I appreciate the opportunity to even submit an application.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: Council, do you have any recommendations?
Councilman Larry Koy: Do I have any recommendations?
Mayor Janice Whitehead: I’m asking council as a whole. There’s four slots to fill.
Councilwoman Jennifer Sullivan: Are you asking for a motion?
Mayor Janice Whitehead: I’m asking for some feedback and a motion.
Councilman Larry Koy: My recommendation would be Mr. Schiller, Luckett, Burttschell and me.
Councilwoman Jennifer Sullivan: I will say that two of the individuals that applied and ran for office and were backed by the Save Our Sealy Association disturbs me because the Save Our Sealy Association has made ugly, cyberbullying comments about the EDC director. So I feel like that would not be a good fit.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: Councilman Noack, any comments?
Councilman Chris Noack: I’m speechless.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: I understand.
Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Vrablec: I’m the same way. I’m speechless.
Councilwoman Dee Anne Lerma: Adam Burttschell, I believe he filled an unexpired term. I think he’s only been on for a year. I actually took the time to contact most everyone who submitted an application and visited with them at length. I appreciate everyone who wants to serve on our boards and commissions. I think it’s really putting yourself out there to even apply for it and it does take a lot of dedication. It takes time. I would like to thank everyone who applied. I know it’s a selfless act to want to be on any board or commission because it does take time away from your family. I appreciate any board members who are currently serving. Thank you for all your hard work and I hope we can move forward.
Mayor Janice Whitehead: Thank you. I’d like to make a recommendation that we fill the four spots with Wyn McCready, Adam Burttschell, Councilwoman Lerma and Sterling Schiller.
Mayor Whitehead’s motion was seconded by Councilwoman Lerma. Whitehead, Lerma, Noack and Vrablec voted in favor. Sullivan, Koy and Hinze were opposed.