Port Authority

Jay Cuellar, middle upheld his campaign promise of being transparent by voting against not sending meeting agendas via email. Chairman J.C. Melcher, right, did not vote and elected to not vote unless it is to break a tie. (Wave file photo)

Calhoun Port Authority ceases emailing agendas, says it takes too much time

Cuellar, De La Garza keep campaign promises, but Melcher, other board members turn from transparency

POINT COMFORT – The Calhoun Port Authority board voted 3-2 against sending meeting agendas to the media and businesses as was the practice prior to the August meeting.

Board member Luis De La Garza questioned the discontinuation of the practice at the August meeting. Board member Jay Cuellar said that he had a brief conversation with Chairman J.C. Melcher about the issue at the Aug.14 meeting.

The issue was item 12 on the Sept. 11 agenda.

“This one caught me off guard,” said Cuellar at Wednesday’s meeting. “My point of view on this is that we need to be crystal clear in providing these agendas. It is not unreasonable to send it out to anybody who asks. This board has been under scrutiny long enough, and we need to be crystal clear that nothing is going to be done that will not meet the standard.”

Melcher said by law the board is required only post the meeting, which is at the Calhoun County Courthouse. “We are following all the rules,” he said.

Board member Tony Holladay said he disagreed with sending out the agendas via email and that if any board member wanted to send it to one of their constituents, they can “send it to whomever they want”.

“We should only send it to people who request it. I’m not going to pay (port director) Charles (Hausmann) and the ladies in the office to sit there and send it to a list this long,” said Holladay.

“You can go online and bring it up. It’s not hard to obtain. It’s out there at the County Clerk’s Office and at the courthouse on the door, but people don’t read it. If you are too lazy to pull it up online you don’t need to read it anyway. That’s my opinion.”

De La Garza asked Hausmann how long it took to send the email, and Hausmann replied, “about five minutes.”

“I agree with Jay. We need to keep moving toward the light and be as transparent as we can. If it takes a matter of minutes to just send out emails, I say we continue doing it as we had been doing it with the exception of the last two meetings. It’s heartbreaking that one board member decides to make a change without the other board members being aware of it,” said De La Garza.

Cuellar added that he thought a one-page agenda was reasonable and made a motion to send out one-page agendas. De La Garza seconded the motion. Cuellar and De La Garza voted for the measure; voting against it were Holladay along with board members Tony Wehmeyer and Johnny Perez.

Following the meeting, De La Garza said he was saddened by the vote and that one board member changed the policy.

Cuellar said following the meeting that he had asked that it be put on the agenda and that sending a one-page agenda was a good middle ground.

“But it didn’t pass. I read somewhere that the true test of the Open Meetings Act and the Open Records Act was in deciding how to provide as much information to the public as possible. I think that’s a good standard.”

When asked why the board decided to do this, Melcher, who has referred all questions to the port director since assuming the position of chairman, deferred the question to Hausmann, who simply said, “It was not my decision.”

In other business, the chief’s report for the widening and deepening project is expected to be approved and sent to the U.S. Congress for approval by late November or early December. “We are close to final approval for the widening and deepening project,” he said.

Also during the meeting, the board adopted the same tax rate that Melcher said was as “minuscule as you can get and still be calculated.”

In other business, the board:

-- Heard the port director’s report in which Hausmann said the port had two really good months with revenue tons of 515,002.4 short tons for August for a two-month total of 951,772.5 short tons.

-- Awarded the Dry Bulk Dock Power Refeed Project to Palacios Marine.

-- Passed on awarding the bid for the Berthing Area Maintenance Dredging Project.

-- Took no action on a notice of abandonment of a 20-inch gas pipeline.

-- Approved a lease agreement for 1,152 feet of warehouse space at 45 cents a square foot with KCE TX2 for storage of lithium-ion batteries.

-- Agreed to send a letter of support for Calhoun County’s CMP Grant application for Boggy Nature Park.

-- Approved the financial report and disbursements and fund transfers.