Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $162.5 million bond referendum to erect new buildings and improve facilities at the College of the Mainland campus in Texas City, making way for the first significant brick-and-mortar additions to the campus since 1970.
Volunteers for the campaign, most of them college employees, gathered at the campus’ Conference Center on Tuesday night to await results that didn’t come in until after 9:30 p.m. because of slow-closing polling places in some precincts. When early voting results came in showing a 66 percent to 34 percent victory for the bond, jubilant cheers erupted.
Voters in Dickinson, Hitchcock, Santa Fe, La Marque and Texas City decided the fate of College of the Mainland Prop. A, as it was named on the ballot, with 22,088 voting for and 11,040 against, not including absentee ballots, according to unofficial returns.
Bill McGarvey, a Galveston County native who earned an associate’s degree from College of the Mainland in 1970, said he had gone on to earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees and returned to Texas City after retiring from IBM only to discover the campus was just as he’d left it 48 years ago.
McGarvey signed on to head the advisory committee that ran the campaign for the bond.
“Our campaign was made up of people from the community, consultants from PBK Architects and employees of the college,” McGarvey said. “We met every other Tuesday. It was fun. I’ve never done anything like this before and I enjoyed it.”
McGarvey said he believed the Texas City community and the surrounding tax district recognized College of the Mainland as “one of the community’s crown jewels,” citing the collegiate high school the college runs, dual credits with area schools, a fast-growing nursing program, a lively continuing education program, a program for seniors and a place where students can earn two-year academic degrees close to home.
“People who know the college and understand its worth knew that the college needed these improvements and had to get the bond passed,” he said.
Like many others in the room, McGarvey gave credit for the campaign’s success to the college’s president since January 2017, Warren Nichols.
“I’ve never seen anybody work harder,” McGarvey said. “He came to all our meetings and he spoke to every imaginable group in the area.”
Nichols took the podium several times throughout the evening of waiting for voting results, thanking everyone who dedicated time to the campaign, including the college’s director of communications, Ruth Rendon, who, he said, arranged for him to give 44 presentations at last count on behalf of the bond.
Enrollment at the college has grown by about 21 percent during the past 10 years, according to district figures, but during that time bond referenda failed twice — in 2007 and 2011.
The board of trustees in 2016 hired Houston-based PBK to create a master plan for the campus and formed a committee to begin talks on a bond issue. But discord between the former president and the board ultimately led to her resignation that same year.
With Nichols on board, trustees decided to move ahead with the bond proposition.
The bulk of referendum funds, about $138 million, will be used for three new buildings. A 160,000-square-foot STEM and Allied Health building will enable new programs in medical technology and expansion of the existing nursing program as well as pre-engineering programs.
A 90,000-square-foot Industrial Careers building will house occupational safety technician and heating, ventilation and air conditioning programs among others, and a 60,000-square foot Student Success building will replace the existing administration building.
The rest of the bond will go toward renovations and expansions at the fine arts building, physical plant and technology upgrades.
“The bond will allow us to build those much-needed buildings,” Nichols said. “But they’re just buildings. This is really about what goes on inside them. It’s time to get to work.”