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EDC members & big boots aren't budging

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

During a meeting of Bandera City Council, longtime members of the Economic Development Corporation vowed "not to go gently into that dark night"

In fact, when faced with possible replacement at a special meeting of city council on Tuesday, Sept. 11, former Vice President Joe Hearn told council he intended to "legally challenge" the opinions of municipal attorneys, Monte Akers and Barbara Boulware-Wells. The attorneys have advised city officials that four corporation members have, in fact, served far beyond the legal term limits as defined in state statutes.

Hearn told council he would consult with the Texas Municipal League as well as with the Office of the Texas Attorney General regarding the attorneys' opinions.

Hearn had served 13 years; Don Clark, 15 years, Vonia Dyer, 11 years; and Linda James, eight years. Prior to his resigning in May, former President Horst Pallaske had served on the EDC for 15 years. State statutes - and recently adopted bylaws governing the Bandera County EDC - limit terms to six consecutive years. Boulware-Wells assisted with the bylaws, which council unanimously approved on August 16, to bring the local EDC in line with state laws.

However, both Councilman John Hegemier and Dyer recommended extending the terms of present members even longer. "I didn't think the terms ended until December," Dyer said.

"Our attorney advised EDC members their terms had ended due to the length of time they had served on the board as written in state statutes," noted Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Schumacher. "Our two municipal attorneys reviewed the government code to ensure our bylaws paralleled state statues."

She continued, "When the bylaws were adopted, all affected EDC members were made aware that their terms had expired. Terms are limited to six years by state law."

"Have we advertised for positions (on EDC)?" Hegemier asked. "Were people who had applied for the EDC previous contacted? I feel I'm being played and I'm getting upset about it."

Echoing his theme, several of those attending the meeting noted they had been unaware that volunteers were needed for the EDC.

Hearn said the four EDC members "in question" had never formally been notified that their terms had expired.

When queried during an earlier EDC meeting, of all the long-serving members, only Hearn had been aware of the year his EDC appointment had begun.

After Hegemier's motion to extend EDC terms until December died for lack of a second, council voted 5-0 to table the agenda item until Thursday, Sept. 20. At that time, both Akers and Boulware-Wells are expected to be available to discuss the legal ramifications of non-adherence to state bylaws governing the EDC.

In a related issue, council also put on hold moving an Esther Benedict sculpture of cowboy boots, purchased by EDC for $3,000 in 2009, to a more visible location in Bandera City Park.

Currently the boots are located in front of the Bandera Convention and Visitors Bureau on Highway 16 South.

By all accounts, the current location is obscure. One local business owner, who passes the CVB several times a day, couldn't recall ever seeing the sculpture.

Council's intent was to relocate the boots to a higher elevation in City Park and install a welcome sign. The boots would rest on a rock platform to be constructed for less than $500.

They would sport colored lights at Christmas as an intro to "The Trail of Lights."

When apprised of the idea, however, Hearn said, "The boots are the property of the EDC and were purchased with the intent of installing them on Highway 16 South."

"Since they have been unused for three years, moving them to City Park would be appropriate," Schumacher said. "A sign will still go up on the highway, but this give us an opportunity to have a second sign for a small amount of money." She added, "The boots are not visible at the CVB. They need to be moved to city property where they can be seen."

Opposing the idea, Clark noted that despite a higher elevation, the boots would be installed in a floodplain. "During a flood, tree limbs and brush will hit the boots and they'll be gone. They won't last 30 minutes in a flood. "

City Administrator Mike Cardenas noted that even though the proposed location for the boots is "higher up - every bit of City Park is in the floodplain." The new site would be on a rise near Highway 173 South
Also taking exception to the proposed location, Hearn noted, "You won't see them coming to Bandera except between the guardrails."

Additionally, ownership of the boot sculpture became a bone of contention. As Hegemier pointed out, "The EDC is an independent corporation. The city can ask EDC to relocate the boots or purchase the boots, but just can't take them."

Concurring, Clark added, "The EDC can own property. We own the parking lot on 11th Street." Previously, the EDC had attempted to purchase Main Plaza from the city, but city officials declined to sell what is also known as "Western Heritage Park."

"When the city gives property or equipment to the city, how does it relinquish it?" Cardenas asked.

"The EDC gives it to the city," Clark replied. He added, "I agree the boots need to be moved to a more visible location, but EDC is a 501c3 corporation and it owns the boots."

Later, it was suggested a proper location - and one certain to garner appropriate attention from all who motor, horseback ride or stride along Main Street - would be to install the Brobdingnagian boots high atop the municipal building. Of course, that elevation would preclude tourists using them for a Cowboy Capital photo op.

Pictured: Bandera's big boots made quite a sight on the courthouse lawn way back when. Now relegated to the relative obscurity of the Convention and Visitors Bureau parking lot, city officials would like them relocated to a more prominent location. However, some long serving members of the Economic Development Corporation say, "Boots aren't budging."