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Kilgore ISD officials feel closer to cinching land deal

By Charlotte Heldenbrand
July 26, 2011 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE – After a year and a half of considering land that might be a good fit for two new schools in Kilgore ISD, Superintendent Jody Clements is thankful an end is in sight.

The district's proposed purchase of a 103-acre portion of land owned by Brant Laird is the beginning for construction of an elementary and middle school.

Decisions remain on a final design plan and a construction firm, among others.

The board's unanimous approval to offer $1.75 million for the property where an old drive-in theater was on U.S. 259 South also authorized the superintendent to negotiate other points with Laird.

"He reserves the mineral and timber rights. What we're negotiating on is water rights," Clements said. "We don't care about the timber or mineral rights." The district is also discussing naming rights with Laird.

"I'm hoping by the end of the week we'll have an agreement. I've exchanged emails with him and basically asked, 'How bad do you want to name it?' "

The current facility attended by sixth through eighth-graders is named Maude Laird Middle School, so named because the family donated the land back in the late 1970s when the district reorganized the way it grouped students, abandoning their junior high-high school combination.

The superintendent is not certain what Laird wants to name the middle school. "His dad's name was Mack Laird, so it'd still be MLMS," Clements said, if the property owner honors his father in the naming opportunity.

Name dropping in the community revealed some residents' belief the property purchase was a wrap before it began.

"We've had some comments made. 'Y'all aren't really looking for land. It's the good old boy system; it's just the Lairds or whatever,' " the superintendent said. "People would call and tell us 'I've got some land you can build a school on.'

"I'd get out there and it'd have a lot of swampland on it …There's probably 10 or 12 properties we wrote letters to asking if they wanted to sell land. I'd ask if we could look at it and they'd let me."

Within the past few months, trustees narrowed their search to three properties: the piece on which they are negotiating on U.S. 259 South, another tract also on the south side of Kilgore (near the Y at the loop and U.S. 259), as well as land at FM 2276 and Stone Road.

"We had it narrowed down to three, then we got land prices, utility prices. The utility prices were outrageous. The city said they'd meet us halfway on that," Clements said. "I brought the board land (choices), they went through that … and we contacted the owner to make the sale. It has been a long, drawn out search. I've walked a lot of land in this area."

That part of the journey is almost over, but the superintendent realizes the district has yet to reach its destination. At Monday's meeting, the board saw design plans for the elementary school as well as the placement of that campus and the middle school, with 280 parking spaces between the two buildings.

The layout of the two campuses resembles a fan shape with the lower grade level building in closer proximity to the U.S. 259 frontage of the property and the upper grades' building toward the back. The middle school is around a month behind the elementary school's plans.

One of the issues yet to be resolved is either increasing traffic flow with a through street or decreasing access, Clements said.

"We're trying to decide: do we let the city build a road and it has traffic all day long? Or do we build it and put a gate on it and lock it?" Clements said. "The elementary campus starts busing at 2:45 p.m. and middle school at 3:15. You can solve some of your traffic issues just by scheduling."



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