Letter to the editor

Fact checking letter writer

Posted

Dear Editor,

Regarding Diane Wuthridge’s third tirade in the paper about the EDC and city council and specifically Lloyd Merrell, city manager and Robert Worley, EDC director. You have become downright inflammatory and defamatory along with misrepresenting the truth.

There are several statements written that need clarification because they are just wrong.

“EDC giveaways for incoming, usually foreign, businesses.”

FACT: On a list of projects done or to be done, there is only one foreign owned business, Hailiang from China. Only about 20 employees of the 250 will be from China and they will not be permanent employees but travel back and forth. The remaining 230 employees will be people from Sealy and surrounding counties. Every business that wants to come to Sealy is very thoroughly checked out for their value in making Sealy better.

“There is no money left in the EDC till for promised support to established Sealy business owners.”

FACT: The EDC has its own moneys, budgeting and accounting. It is mandated by state law that the EDC budget be completely separate from city council budget. They are not intermingled. The EDC account currently has over $600,000.

“$325,000 virus stimulus checks administrators wrote out and mailed before getting approval from the city council.”

FACT: The city council did approve a proposal that the mayor appoint a committee of five to pick the qualified businesses and it was not required that they had to return to city council to get approval of the selectees. The committee was voted on an unanimously approved by the city council. The committee met twice and selected 38 of the 50 applicants qualified to receive the grants. A total of $239,000 was distributed. Only $11,500 of the original $250,000 was not used due to closure or not being qualified. That money is in the EDC account.

“How many administrators and EDC members and wives visited foreign countries in pursuit of new businesses?”

FACT: Mr. Worley, Mr. Wyn McCready and Cheryl Moore, SISD superintendent, were the only persons who went to China, at Hailiang’s invite to see their company.

“Evlyn Court Apartments is still not finished and is still 3-4 feet above original plans.”

FACT: Evlyn Court Condominiums is six inches elevation above plans. Warren Escovy is dealing with this company regarding this.

“Sealy city employees spent exhaustive days cleaning up silt from Harvest Moon building site because correct procedures to keep the silt from getting into Allens Creek were not followed.”

FACT: Allens Creek has been a drainage problem for years, which in the past had not been satisfactorily dealt with. The work done by the Streets, Drainage, Parks and Building Services, headed by Lawrence Siska, had nothing to do with Harvest Moon. They are working dredging ditches, putting in tiles and cleaning out areas susceptible to drainage being blocked. This is a city-wide ongoing program.

“Council did not vote on Mayor Janice Whitehead staying on the mayor’s throne until the election. The city’s well-read attorney cited a legal loophole that would keep her supporting the city manager and EDC agenda and pushing through their agenda at a frantic pace.” “She is no longer a member of the council.”

FACT: According to state law mandates, it is proper for the mayor to continue on the council until the next election (Nov. 3). At the Nov. 9 city council meeting, the mayor will open the meeting, take care of housekeeping items and then turn it over to the new mayor. She continues as a council member until that date.

“Another closed-door session is on this week’s EDC agenda to discuss another $250,000 welcome to Sealy package.”

FACT: All cities do incentive packages to get businesses good for the city to come. These package amounts vary according to company size and financial impact for the city. These incentive amounts are not just handed to the company when they sign a contract. All businesses have benchmarks and deadlines that must be met before any moneys are given. The money is not given as one lump sum. If the benchmarks and deadlines are not met, the business doesn’t get any money until they are. Also, the EDC never gives away natural gas, water or sewer taps. The businesses must pay taxes to the city, show the receipt to the EDC, and then the EDC sometimes reimburses the company for taxes paid. Again, all the incentives are approved by the city council, not staff.

When tax abatement or rebates are involved on for the first is there a 100% tax abatement. The percentage amount decreases over time for “X” number of years (usually seven) established for each business, until the business is paying 100% of their taxes without abatement. For Harvest Moon Apartments, they will pay the city 100% of taxes due. The EDC will reimburse to Harvest Moon up to $20,000 of property taxes paid for 2021 and 2022, if they meet stated benchmarks in the performance agreement.

My concern for the truth led me to checking out all of these statements.

Diane, I would be concerned about your sources for information.

All of this information is public record. Mr. Merrell and Mr. Worley have an open door policy and are most willing to speak to any one of us and answer questions or listen to our concerns. I question whether any of the council give them the courtesy of discussing any issues with either one of them.

Emails for Lloyd Merrell and Robert Worley are lmerrell@ci.sealy.tx.us and rworley@ci.sealy.tx.us. Phone contact is (city) 979-885-3511 and (Worley’s cell phone) 979-398-1304.

Sealy is on the verge of exploding with homes and businesses. Sealy will grow whether we like it or want it to happen.

We have been blessed to have two gentlemen, Mr. Merrell and Mr. Worley, to have been selected to help our city grow successfully. They each have a multitude of years of experience and successes and talents in city governance. They know what they are doing. Let them do their jobs! Do you realize that Mr. Merrell and Mr. Worley do not have a vote on city council? They bring the ideas and handle day-to-day management but can’t vote. It is the elected council members who vote.

The pettiness that the city council exhibits is an embarrassment. How many businesses have been driven away from Sealy after visiting previous council meetings? Amazon, Buc-ees and more! It is apparent that some of the elected city council members each seem to have their own agenda, which doesn’t seem to be what is beneficial for our city.

I would ask that each council member work at being the best version of themselves and do what is beneficial for our great city.

Helen Burchfield

Sealy

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