COM repairs

The entrance to the gymnasium is blocked by a fence at College of the Mainland on Thursday, March 29, 2018. The pool in the gymnasium will be filled and converted into a multipurpose facility for lectures or events.

TEXAS CITY

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.

Connor Behrens: 409-683-5241; connor.behrens@galvnews.com.

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Before coming to work for The Daily News as a staff reporter, Connor worked for us as a freelance correspondent throughout 2017. He has written for other publications such as the Washington Post.

(5) comments

Ron Shelby

This should be done...but, in the long run, COM needs to consider why it needs a "Maintenance" bond (As this article calls it). The label immediately calls into question why maintenance is not being properly budgeted annually out of the regular Operating & Maintenance budget of the college. Has COM not been bringing in enough revenues to cover maintenance. If not, they are now going to be paying over future years BOTH a cost to pay off the old maintenance bonds, plus annual maintenance costs as the years go forward. If this is not a "maintenance" bond, then I'd properly rename it.

Gary Scoggin

Hopefully, someone more knowledgeable will step in here but it’s my understanding that the Maintenance Bond route was selected because it enables some quick hit fixes. Not all of the work being done isn’t truly maintenance. Filling the pool and renovating the Chemistry Labs probably is; creating a conference area and renovating the Student Services building seems less so.

All of that said, I’m glad to see COM getting started on this type of work. I’m eager to see the updated plan and proposed bond package. Hopefully things are structured in a manner the community can get behind. A lot of people don’t realize the impact COM has on our community and how much unrealized potential it has.

Paul Hyatt

With all of the millions that COM has spent on lawyers and paying off people that they have wronged and had to by out contracts of many Presidents, one has to wonder why they need a bond at all.... Now they have had to do a 16 million dollar bond just for maintenance? Really? Now we are adding insult to injury and now when the county is just now starting to recover from Harvey these people want to come along with a large tax increase? The value of many homes have fallen and when you look around the county many are still just barely getting started and many have not moved an inch. All this will do is devalue the homes and everyone looking for money from the home owners and businesses will see a sever drop in their revenues. Now the college wants to raise its tax rate.... Hope they fail@

Gary Scoggin

We don’t know that the bond will result in a “large tax increase.” I want to see the details before passing judgement.

Carlos Ponce

College of the Mainland opened in 1967 at the Booker T. Washington Campus, 721 Second Avenue South in Texas City. They moved into the current campus in September 1970. The 2.85 million dollar Palmer Highway campus consisted of a Learning Resource Center, an Administration-Classroom building, a Technical- Vocational Building and a Central Utilities Building. The 4.75 million dollar Phase 2 was approved on May 16, 1970 to add a Physical Education Building, a college center, a fine arts building and increasing the technical-vocational building. Phase 2 opened in September 1972. "A 20,000-square-foot addition to the Technical-Vocational Building was completed in fall 1985. The expansion houses computer labs, classrooms, offices and a Child Development Lab designed as a training ground for students enrolled in the Child Development Program. In 1991, two Industrial Education Buildings were completed to house the Auto Mechanics Technology and Diesel Mechanics Technology Programs. In 1999, a new 10,800-square-foot Public Service Careers Building was opened across the esplanade from the Fine Arts Building.
"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."
"first capital improvement undertaking since the school opened in 1967"???
Not true. These COM "officials" need to re-check their own website on the history of COM's capital improvements.
http://www.com.edu/about/history

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