Control of Alamo Begins to Shift Away From DRT

Jerry Patterson, Texas land commissioner (left) and Karen Thompson, president general, Daughters of the Republic
Jerry Patterson, Texas land commissioner (left) and Karen Thompson, president general, Daughters of the Republic

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas are gradually being relieved of sole responsibility for one of the Lone Star state's most important icons after years of controversy over their management of the Alamo.

On Monday, Jerry Patterson, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office met with Karen Thompson, president general of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, to discuss what role the women's group would play in the future of the San Antonio historical site. Lawmakers this year decided to remove the group from sole control of the Alamo following allegations of financial ambiguity, questionable appropriation of state funds, insufficient maintenance and a failed attempt by the Daughters to claim ownership of the landmark.

GLO spokesman Mark Loeffler said Monday’s meeting between Thompson and Patterson was informal as the agency gets acclimated to the DRT’s custodial activities at the Alamo.

Following the passage of House Bill 3726, responsibility for the Alamo will be transferred to the Texas General Land Office, and the officials there have until Sept. 1 to negotiate a partnering contract with the Daughters. According to the legislation authored by Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the agreement would give the GLO oversight in a partnership with the DRT. If no deal is made by Jan. 1, all powers and duties held by the DRT will be transferred to the GLO.

Loeffler said it’s too early in the contract’s negotiations to know the role the Alamo’s historic caregivers will have under the new management, but said the Daughters will be involved.

 

Patterson "has no intention of eliminating that role, but it may change — even the daughters know it may change,” Loeffler said.

The structural integrity of the 200-year old building is chief among the concerns going forward, and something Van de Putte has alleged the DRT has failed to properly address. The bill requires any agreement between the DRT and the GLO to include compliance with federal building and operation laws and to address construction, maintenance and repair of the Alamo.

Thompson said the only complaint she receives regarding the integrity of the Alamo's structure is about a crack in the roof — a long-standing problem at the site.

"Looking back to 1910, looking back to the 1930s, one of the main things was the leak in the roof," Thompson said. "Because of the age and structure and the way it was built, it has probably always had leaking problem."

Thompson said the DRT is fine with the prospect of partnering with the GLO and bringing the agency's engineers and experience to the Alamo. She said she hopes it brings more immediacy to the Alamo's requests. Thompson said the DRT had money to fix the leak in the roof five years ago, but that the bureaucratic process involved in aquiring a permit from the Texas Historical Commission's antiquities department delayed their action. "Maybe we won’t have such a long process to get something done now, because our partner is the state," Thompson said.

Among other concerns prompting the legislation was the possibility that the DRT inappropriately used state funds when entering into a contracting with the William Morris Agency, a talent mogul that represents celebrities like Madonna, to promote the Alamo. The DRT eventually backed out of the deal, which reportedly would cost $75,000 a month for a year to market the historic site.

Van de Putte’s bill also requires the GLO to prepare an annual budget including maintenance reports on the building and its grounds, a measure that was not previously required of the Alamo custodians.

The DRT also faced criticism when they attempted to patent the Alamo. The move would have given the Daughters ownership over the state landmark, and Gov. Rick Perry declined the request.

Van de Putte’s bill states the GLO may enter into a partnership with the Daughters only if they qualify as a nonprofit corporation. The agreement between the GLO and DRT was meant to loosely resemble the partnership between the Admiral Nimitz Foundation and the Texas Historical Commission over the National Museum of the Pacific. The Admiral Nimitz Foundation serves as the museum’s private, nonprofit support organization, functioning much as the DRT may for the Alamo.

 

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