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Issues arise out of new Kilgore schools

By Glenn Evans
June 6, 2012 at 10 p.m.

KILGORE - School board and city council members held a rare joint meeting Tuesday to discuss aspects of trustees' ongoing campus building program that raises questions for both entities.

The two elective bodies settled one issue and laid a framework for addressing more complex questions, such as what to do with two soon-to-be shuttered campuses, campus security and how to pay for a $1.2 million improvement to Baughman Road where the new schools are being built.

Simply reaching a ballpark estimate for widening and strengthening the road - which will serve new Maude Laird Middle and Kilgore Heights Elementary schools - was a communication breakthrough.

"We got the real engineers' estimate at $1.2 million," said Kilgore City Manager Scott Sellers. That swiftly put estimates that had floated in the $300,000 range to rest. Those estimates were made when officials did not know the road would be annexed into Kilgore and need to meet city code specifications.

That informal estimate may or may not be the eventual cost of renovating Baughman Road, leading to the question of whether the city or school should take the lead in seeking bids. That wasn't decided, but discussions leaned toward a city lead on the road.

"I'll let you know," Sellers told Kilgore ISD Superintendent Jody Clements after the school chief made that proposal.

Action did occur at the end of the 100-minute meeting as the city council unanimously agreed to waive building permit fees at the construction site on Kilgore's southern tip.

That shaves $66,000 off the school district's load as trustees oversee their $55 million building program approved by voters.

The city council and school board spent most of their meeting discussing what's to become of the two emptying campuses.

Trustees, and Clements, were adamant the district wants to maintain the land itself, in case it is needed for future expansion. However, ideas for the buildings ranged from leveling them to finding a nonprofit organization that could make use of elements that include gymnasiums, large kitchen and dining areas and potentially roomy meeting areas for conventions or seminars.

"We're asking what y'all can do to help us with the road, and we'll work with you on the buildings," Clements finally said, indicating future discussions could aim toward some type of mutual aid agreement.

The council and school board also agreed to have their staffs negotiate on how to continue keeping up to three Kilgore police officers working for the district during the nine-month school year.

"We are all agreeing it's a viable program," Police Chief Todd Hunter said of the School Resource Officer system. "We need it to continue."

The groups also discussed how the school district's need for a softball field might dovetail with city plans to undertake a sports complex project and with Kilgore College's recent decision to add softball to its curriculum.

Sellers noted the council already plans a meeting on that larger plan, probably next week, and the district's request can be included in those discussions.



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