Proposed sports complex raises concerns
In May, Edna ISD purchased land for a new softball and baseball complex. Since then a bond proposal has been written up and the community is indifferent about it.
The proposed complex, situated on approximately 13 acres of land directly across from the football stadium, holds immense promise for Edna ISD. Superintendent Robert O’Connor emphasized that the motivation behind this project extends beyond the realm of sports.
One of the primary benefits of the new complex is the increased control it will afford the high school over its athletic facilities. This includes scheduling, maintenance, and use of the pitching mounds, which will ultimately provide more playing time for both high school teams and Little League, benefitting the entire community.
One crucial aspect is utilizing the complex’s parking lot as an overflow parking space for large football games and band contests. This initiative aims to improve safety and convenience for attendees by preventing roadside parking. A lighted crosswalk will be installed to ensure safety while crossing the street.
Mr. O’Connor, explained, “Until we worked to get the Department of Transportation to reduce the speed limit, there were people going 50, 60 miles an hour through there. Inadequate parking is not ideal, especially for older individuals with mobility challenges.”
The community’s support will be pivotal in making this project a reality. O’Connor emphasized that the funding for the complex would come from a bond election. The bond, O’Connor clarified, is specifically for capital improvements and cannot be used for salaries. He stressed that property taxes support essential functions of the school district, and their allocation is governed by the state.
“A bond cannot be used for salaries,” he explained, “so it’s either the bond is for this or it’s for nothing. There’s nothing else out there for that.”
Some residents are apprehensive about the bond because they believe their money should be allocated to career and technical programs. Edna ISD is actually renowned for its commitment to career and technical education. The district offers diverse programs, including agriculture, culinary arts, construction technology, computer repair, robotics, and more. These programs provide students with valuable skills and opportunities for growth.
O’Connor addressed this by stating, “The AG shop when I got here was not much more than about three of my offices. Mr. Koop has everything that he needs now for sure. We just added a larger shop to the back of the existing shop. We’re getting kids from Industrial, Ganado, and VC and we’re teaching construction classes.” He continued, “They’re learning how to frame, how to plumb, how to do basic electrical, and how to more or less set up a shed or a tiny home. We’re doing all of those things. I’m a big supporter on career and technical education.”
In addition to their ag programs, EISD is also renovating other departments in the high school. “We completely gutted the culinary arts room and two other little rooms into it to enlarge it. We’re going to do a commercial kitchen with commercial ovens, stoves, and prep areas. We took the library and completely gutted it. We’ve got ebooks now that they can check out on their Chromebooks without having to have access to all that. That’s also where the culinary kids will serve when they want to serve a meal to somebody. That way they can get the hospitality part of it, where they know how to prepare and do all those other things.”
Regarding concerns about property values, O’Connor shed light on the property value study conducted by the state comptroller. This study establishes the expected range of property values for Edna ISD or Jackson County. Failure to stay within this range for three consecutive years can lead to a reduction in funding. It’s essential to understand that the school district does not directly collect taxes; it’s collected within the county and then allocated based on state calculations.
People are also upset about the price of the complex. O’Connor explained, “I built my house 4 or 5 years ago. If I went back to build it again, it would cost me two times what I paid to build that house for just five years ago. And so are these facilities expensive? Yeah, because construction is high.” The principal amount of bonds to be authorized is $19 million. It is estimated the average tax increase per month will be around nine dollars.
The choice of synthetic turf for the sports fields and practice facility is due to its durability and environmental advantages. The turf will offer a more consistent playing surface while conserving water, making it a sensible choice for Texas’s arid climate especially with the recent heat waves and level one drought.
In the end, O’Connor makes it clear that everyone is well within their right to vote yes or no, “Do you want this for your kids? If you do, show up and vote. If you don’t, vote it down. That’s all I can do. I’m okay. We’re not telling people what they have to do, but we are trying to be responsive to the people who say, why can’t you all do this? Well, the answer is, do you want to do it? So the American patriotic thing to do is put it up to a vote.”
In summary, the fate of this ambitious project now rests in the hands of the community. A bond election scheduled for November will determine whether the Edna ISD softball and baseball complex becomes a reality. Residents will have the opportunity to cast their votes and shape the future of the district’s athletic facilities and educational programs.