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By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – The recent Woodville ISD bond election results were canvassed at the regular meeting of the WISD Board of Trustees.
The canvassing was the first action item on Monday evening’s agenda, but prior to that process, the bond was the topic of two speakers during the public forum portion of the meeting.
The $47.8 million bond package is for a series of district-wide improvements and passed in the May 7 special election by a 51.20% majority.
Phil McClure, a Woodville business owner, spoke first, and said that there has been rhetoric in the community from some individuals encouraging a boycott of businesses that did not support the bond measure.
“Schools are essential to the community, as are small businesses,” McClure said. “Without either, neither will exist,” he added.
McClure said that any WISD trustees who “would suppress voters in any way or seek revenge against anybody that doesn’t vote the way they should” should not serve on the board, to which he added that WISD Board of Trustees President Jimmy Tucker was “one of whom I speak.”
“We want to build a strong community, not divide it,” McClure said.
WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke to the Booster on the concerns raised by McClure and said that as far as any voter suppression goes, she is not aware of what was referenced.
Meysembourg said that supporting local businesses was paramount to the district, and that “as a school district we absolutely support our local community and businesses and work to give back to our community.”
Another resident who spoke during the public forum portion, Charles Rawls, addressed the projected amount of money, and asked from where the figure was derived, and also addressed a topic of improper balloting. The latter issue was explained, in detail, by County Clerk Donece Gregory, prior to the canvassing.
Rawls also expressed a safety concern with elementary-age students; that there is a higher likelihood of an active shooter near the Woodville High School and Middle School campuses, where the new elementary building will be located.
The improvements to WISD covered by the bond include the construction of a new Pre-K through fifth grade elementary school building, which would be housed under one roof, as well as additions to the Career and Technical Education Center.
Meysembourg said that timeline-wise, the district hopes to have the design process completed by December. She said a kick-off meeting will take place next week, where she and WISD Assistant Superintendent/Finance Manager Cody Jarrott will meet with a team of experts, including architects, a project manager and financial experts, to discuss the next step.
“We will put everything out for bid, and hopefully have all of the bids in by February, and hopefully start construction at the end of February or early March of 2023, with a completion date of fall 2024,” Meysembourg said.
For the renovations to the CTE Center, Meysembourg said the plan is to try and tackle that project either summer 2023 or 2024, so as to not disrupt the facilities for students who are working on projects during the regular academic term.
Gregory, who was on hand to explain discrepancies with two voters, said that she was contacted by a couple in the Dam B area who did not get to vote on the bond issue, but it was not on their ballots.
She said their address should have been in the WISD area of service on the voter rolls, and she has contacted the Secretary of State’s office to inform about what had occurred.
Gregory answered questions from Meysembourg and trustee Josh McClure about the canvassing process and possible contesting from voters. She said that there is a 30-day window for voters to contest their ballots, once the canvass is rendered.
Following the canvass, the board counted 621 “for” votes and 592 “against” on the bond issue.
In another pair of agenda items, the WISD Board of Trustees voted to accept an application of an energy firm, reNRG, and authorize Meysembourg to extend a deadline for any board action regarding a possible tax abatement for the firm. The board also voted in favor of a possible action to retain consultation to assist the district in processing the firm’s application.
The firm is looking build a 120-megawatt solar power facility near Doucette, which according to projections, could provide enough electricity to power up to 24,000 homes annually.
Representatives from the firm, the O’Hanlon Group and Moak-Casey were on hand to speak to the WISD trustees.
The representatives said they will approach the county officials next about a tax abatement for their facility, which they estimate to be online by the fourth quarter of 2027.
They explained that a tax abatement from WISD would only cover M&O (maintenance and operation) tax levy and not for the I&S (interest and sinking) levy.