GEORGE WEST – A group of area residents concerned about the appearance of the town, as well as a perceived lack of accountability, communication and transparency from City Hall, have created a community organization to promote “responsible local government.”
“Friends Of George” currently has more than 20 members—many of whom believe the city is too secretive with its information and should focus on infrastructure needs before veering off into other, possibly more extravagant, projects.
The group cites the alleged failure of a fire hydrant during a recent restaurant fire in downtown George West as an example of infrastructure needs. (Mayor Sylvia Steele said reports of that malfunction have been exaggerated).
Members of the group also allege that they are not getting the correct information from officials to gauge how much money the city has right now.
Mayor Steele, meanwhile, said she doesn’t understand why the group thinks the city is not complying with their requests for information. She welcomed members to approach city hall again and restate their requests for information.
“I want you to understand, I really like the people in this group—they are very hard-working, good people,” the mayor said. “But we have complied with everything they have asked for. All their wishes. We have done nothing wrong.”
As far as the concerns about the appearance of the town, the mayor described the city as “lovely.”
Reports that a fire hydrant malfunctioned during the late February fire that destroyed a restaurant in the 400 block of Nueces Street are only partly true, the mayor said.
“From what I understand, the pressure on that particular hydrant was simply low,” she said. “But the pressure rose up again when firefighters ran a hose from that street to behind the restaurant, and they ran one behind city hall.”
The mayor said the fact that some members of this group are not residents of George West caused her to raise an eyebrow.
Member John Walker agreed that there are various members of the group who own property in George West but are not citizens of the town, so they can’t vote. But he added that those members—a number that includes himself—are a vital part of the group.
“There are a lot of people who don’t live in George West who really, really care about this city,” Walker said.
The group first met on March 10 and then again on March 24. A third meeting was scheduled for this week.
Member Grace Wilson said many local residents are extremely excited about the organization.
“Every meeting we get more and more organized, and interest grows,” she said.