Economic Development Corp. president, city councilman resign;
new slate of EDC officers chosen
By David Webb
GUN BARREL CITY–Controversy about the Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corp. led to announcements Monday of resignations by City Councilman Curtis Webster and EDC President Linda Rankin.
Webster said in a telephone interview Monday morning he submitted a letter of resignation to city officials on Friday. He attributed his resignation to the “stress” of serving as the council’s liaison officer to the EDC and concerns it could harm his health. The constant “bickering” became too aggravating, he said.
“It’s stress, extreme stress,” Webster said. “It was just too much. It was just time for me to leave.”
Webster suffered a heart attack almost a decade ago, and he subsequently underwent triple-bypass surgery and a pacemaker implant. Trying to get the EDC board to develop a budget that would please council members last week led to high blood pressure symptoms, he said.
Webster seerved on the council for five and one-half years, and he served on the EDC for two years prior to running for the council.
Rankin’s announcement of her resignation came in an email broadcast Monday afternoon less than an hour before the start of an emergency EDC meeting she scheduled for the election of new board officers and a budget conference. It said, “All, I wanted to let you know I have decided to resign from the EDC. I will not be attending today’s meeting.”
Rankin could not be reached for comment on the terse announcement.
Councilman Marty Goss, a longtime critic of Rankin who attempted and failed twice earlier this year to get the council to eject her from the EDC, speculated after the meeting that Rankin had learned a majority of the new board of directors would not back her for another term as president. Goss attended the meeting to advise the board about adjustments he wanted to see to the new 2014-15 budget.
“If that is what she deems she needs to do then she has my full support,” Goss said of Rankin’s resignation.
When the meeting convened, vice president Gary Damiano presided. Rankin’s absence went unmentioned and the board began nominating officers after new board member Rob Rea said he would not accept the appointment as treasurer that the board approved at an earlier meeting in September that he missed.
Rea nominated new board member David Skains to be president and Skains nominated Rea to be vice president. The board approved those motions and approved the appointment of Damiano as treasurer and new member Patsy Black as secretary.
At the Sept. 16 meeting the board failed to elect a new president and vice president because of tie votes between Rankin and Black for president and Damiano and Skains for vice president. Rea was appointed as treasurer, but the secretary slot remained open on the seven-member board.
Rankin said last week she expected Rea to break the tie votes at the October meeting, but Goss told her during a council meeting he would like to see new officers elected at the emergency meeting she was scheduling to re-examine the budget.
After the election of new board officers, the new liaison officer to the EDC, Councilman Ronald Wyrick, presented suggested changes developed by Goss to the EDC budget of $477,450. The board accepted most of the changes suggested by Goss, but it declined to approve two items.
Goss wanted to eliminate two EDC memberships to the Real Estate Council costing a total of $900, and he wanted to reduce the engineering and consulting line item from $30,000 to $10,000. Rea said he disagreed with Goss, and the other board members supported Rea’s viewpoint.
The board agreed to the line items of $50,000 for Boots to Business, $60,000 for Town Center Phase 1, $14,750 for the Industrial Business Park and $6,500 for Project Office Space. The board agreed that additional money previously approved for those projects would be placed in the general fund, along with $200,000 for a skate park and $25,000 for a water park that needed further study of estimated costs.
Goss told the board he agreed with their assessments, including the rejection of two of his ideas. “Everything you do from that point is brand new and transparent,” he said.
City Manager Gerry Boren said he also agreed with the budget plan because more details are needed about what kinds of agreements are being made. “Get back to the basics, and put it in writing,” he said.
Wyrick said he would work with the new EDC board to help move projects along. “I’m trying to learn the ins and outs of what is going on,” he said. “I’ll see if I can learn real fast.”
Wyrick said the departures of Webster and Rankin would not hinder the city’s progress. “Everybody has their reasons for what they are doing,” he said. “The city is going to go on. We’re going to keep running the city.”
Boren said council members are expected to start considering who they want to appoint to fill the vacant seat on the council and EDC board, due to the resignations of Webster and Rankin.
The City Charter requires that a new council member be appointed within 30 days, and the “clock starts running” seven days after the receipt of the resignation, Boren said. If the seat is not filled by then, it will remain open until the May election, he said.