LIFESTYLE

Remember the Alamo? Daughters of the Republic of Texas Neglecting Upkeep, State Says

There's a new Battle of the Alamo brewing in Texas: State investigators are raising questions about how the landmark's longtime caretakers, The Daughters of the Republic of Texas, are handling their charge. 

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas have maintained the Alamo for more than a century. But the Texas attorney general's office told lawmakers there are concerns with how the Daughters are running the famous historic site and didn't rule out legal action as an investigation into the group continues.

A key bone of contention is a set of major renovations that were planned in 2007, but never took place. Four years later, a new plan has been announced—at $60 million, which is nearly double the previous calculated cost.

"Despite their best efforts ... the DRT appears to lack the resources at this time to properly maintain the Alamo," assistant attorney general Daniel Hodge told a House panel Wednesday.

Jim Ewbanks, general counsel for the Daughters, defended the group's operations and challenged figures Hodge provided the panel. The Daughters generate about $5.3 million annually, much of which comes from sales at its gift shop. A large portion of that is used to operate the Alamo.

But Ewbanks said that doesn't mean there isn't more money available for preservation.

"Large amounts of money spent on preservation come actually from (grants)," Ewbanks said. "There's a lot of sources being used for preservation funds that make that number much larger than Mr. Hodge might have had it appear."

Hodge's testimony didn't sit well with about three dozen Daughters members who packed a committee room to standing-room only. The three-hour hearing raised concerns about the Daughters' ability to raise money, decisions by their leadership and how quickly repairs were being made to the Alamo.

In one example, Hodge described the Daughters scrambling to raise money for a new building, suggesting the group was perhaps prioritizing new projects ahead of Alamo preservation.

"That is a potential cause for concern, particularly when money is as tight as it is today," Hodge said.

Ewbanks also defended the Daughters' efforts to trademark the Alamo brand, which the 7,000-plus member group sees as a potentially lucrative revenue stream. The Daughters gave no warning to the state before applying for the trademark, and Gov. Rick Perry's office has sought to block that effort, claiming it would interfere with the state's ownership of the Alamo.

"The Daughters are losing significant revenue that could be used for the Alamo," Ewbanks said.

The Alamo receives no taxpayer funding and offers free admission. An estimated 2.5 million visitors flock each year the site of the famous 1836 battle where an outnumbered band of Texas defenders staged a legendary stand, before Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna and his Mexican forces seized the mission.

The attorney general's office opened an investigation into the Daughters last year following allegations of mismanagement by former members. The investigation remains open, and Hodge said it the attorney general's office wants to avoid "legal avenues" to resolve its concerns.

Ewbanks said the Daughters have turned over more than 40,000 documents to the attorney general's office. He said the group has not had a chance to tell its side of the story yet to investigators.

Stan Graves, the director of architecture for the Texas Historical Commission, testified that one concern is the work that is needed to preserve the Alamo is limited by fundraising.

"I know the state is broke ... but there are times the state does step up," Graves said.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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