College of the Mainland officials have hired a consultant as part of a $1.5 million contract with PBK Architects to handle communications with the public in the run up to a possible November bond referendum.
Consultant Ryan Gregory’s work is a component of the overall $1.5 million contract the college has with PBK, officials said. Houston-based PBK has been with the college since it helped draft a facilities master plan in 2016.
Gregory will advise college officials and help educate the community about the college’s academic vision, officials said.
The effort would entail spreading the college’s bond message through public communication, community forms, advertising, internet resources, signage and direct mail, Gregory said.
“Social media is just one element of communication that will be used to communicate COM’s plans,” he said. “COM’s working plan is very exciting. It’s progressive, long overdue and very responsive to regional workforce demands.”
While many Texas City leaders agreed the college needs to make capital investment in its facilities, the college has not been successful at passing bond proposals.
Voters rejected bond proposals in 2007 and 2011, which some have attributed to resentment of previous college boards.
Trustees in 2016 hired PBK to create a master plan and formed a committee to begin talks on a bond issue. But bitterness and vitriol between the board and a former college president ultimately led to her resignation that same year.
The college delayed the bond proposition until it hired President Warren Nichols in January 2017.
The deadline to call the bond is this summer, Nichols said.
“At the July meeting, we would officially have the board call for the bond in November,” he said. “We believe that the June or July meetings would give us more time in giving the community more time to be informed.”
Nichols last summer recommended trustees approve a $16.25 million maintenance tax bond to begin making repairs to existing buildings on campus, instead of holding off for a bond election.
The maintenance tax bond, which didn’t require voter approval, is the college’s first capital improvement undertaking since the school opened in 1967, officials said.
Expanding the campus and creating a better environment is key to the growing college’s future, Nichols said.
Enrollment at the college has grown by about 21 percent during the past 10 years, according to district figures.
During the fall 2008 semester, 3,561 students were enrolled. By the fall 2017, enrollment had grown to 4,328, spokeswoman Ruth Rendon said.
With work funded by the maintenance tax bond underway, the school would focus on informing residents about the bond referendum, Nichols said.
“We are actually in the process right now to develop those timelines for community meetings that we will be conducting,” he said. “We haven’t finalized those dates yet, but we believe those will probably start in the next three weeks to a month.”
The college has not discussed specific aspects of the bond and no bond amount has been set, Nichols said.
“A committee is being formed to meet and discuss the needs of the college,” he said. “The committee will make a determination on what the bond should entail and make a recommendation to the board.”
The college also is designing a comprehensive academic plan that might offer students new programs such as engineering, information technology, aerospace and maritime courses.
The academic master plan would be the main factor in determining details of the bond, Nichols said.
“That will be the guiding principle in which we determine the need of the bond in terms of what programs we are looking to create or what facility we would need to make that happen,” he said.
Gregory helping with community involvement is imperative to the bond’s process, Nichols said.
“We will be looking for any and every opportunity to get out in front of the community to get them the information they need to make an informed decision,” he said.