The Alpine City Council recently lost a member. Michael Castelli, Ward 5,
tossed in his hat after feeling he wasn't able to help the city bounce back from scandal.
Even though approving the resignation was the first action item on the agenda, surprisingly what caused a huge stir in Tuesday's meeting was how the city has been spending resources on training for its workers.
There was some finger pointing between city officials, and from the public to the council on how they’ve been spending money on continuing education courses.
The scrutiny, largely fueled by Big Bend Gazette Editor John Waters centers on their expenses for classes like a recent one council members attended on investing. Waters felt they’re wasteful since the City of Alpine hasn’t said that they have any investments. He also said the courses can be taken online to further reduce travel expenses.
"We have to have continuous training. New issues come in. New councilmen come in. How will they learn how to work with each other? We cannot just learn this from reading something off the monitor or from a book," Mayor Avignash Rangra said.
"We’re very committed to ensuring that we’re not wasting money, and that we’re spending and making recommendations on applications that we need within the city," City Manager Eric Zimmer said. Zimmer was also questioned about not reporting a $300 expenditure on travel for a recent trip to Austin for business. Other council members pushed forth the idea that, because of all the financial issues in the past, matters like that should be more heavily enforced and approved by the officials, regardless of how much or little they cost.
The council each denied to comment on probing questions by Waters. According to the mayor, the city only spends a few thousand dollars from the annual budget which is approximately ten million. And he says that’s easily worth it to make sure that councilmen know how to understand the issues they’re faced with.
"Every penny that we spend in the training is returned to the public, many times fold," he said. He also added that if they don't spend money there's a notion that in order to be a councilman, someone has to be wealthy and fund many expenses out of pocket, thereby deterring some to be in the representative position. "Then that's not inclusive, that's exclusive, and I don't believe in that," he said.