PNGISD green lights sale of property

Published 10:24 am Wednesday, August 16, 2017

GROVES — An eight-acre piece of land at the corner of FM 366 and Merriman Street in Port Neches will be up for sale including the iconic “Indian” corner.

The land is owned by Port Neches-Groves Independent School District and has sat vacant for a number of years and state law prohibits construction of any facility there that would hold students.

Earlier this week, trustees unanimously approved putting the land up for sale. The land is valued at about $1 million.

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The goal, Superintendent Jimmy Creel said, is to find the appropriate money to build a new administration building or swap property in exchange for space for an administration building.

Currently the district’s administration is split between two cities. The building at 620 Ave. C in Port Neches holds the superintendent’s office, assistant superintendent offices, and business office. A second administration office, located at 5840 W. Jefferson in Groves, is home to the technology department, special education department, curriculum coordinators and school board meeting room as well as West Groves Early Learning Center.

In addition, the board is looking at a proposed budget with a $4.1 million deficit.

The decision to put the land up for sale or swap included discussion on whether to include the approximate 100-foot by 120-foot plot that contains a wall with school district memorabilia and a totem pole.

“I have talked to people in the community and they say the corner is part of our heritage,” trustee Lana Parker said.

Board president Darren McCutcheon agreed, saying he too, has heard this.

The corner previously sported a concrete “I” that was laid on the ground but visible to motorists. Then around 2011 a totem pole was added and most recently, the memorabilia wall.

But the corner, as well as the eight-acres, requires maintenance.

“We provide maintenance for the grounds areas including the sidewalks,” Jeff Bergeron, director of maintenance for the district, said. “It does take our guys away from the schools. They not only cut grass, they are also our laborers. A school could call and say they need two to three of our guys to do this or that. There is continuous maintenance on that property and time away for us.”

Creel said he and Bergeron have talked of Bergeron and his team replicating the corner at a different location should the property be sold.

Trustees also wondered that if they decided to keep the corner, a new owner of the main acreage could erect something that would take away from the iconic spot.

“A concern is if the new owner would do something to take away from the corner if we keep it,” trustee Mark Holmes said. “We can keep the corner and they could put something up behind it and we end up with a piece of property that we still need to maintain.”

After the meeting was over McCutcheon said the board’s decision to sell the whole eight-acres including the corner was made with heavy heart.

McCutcheon said the corner means a lot to the district but due to a budget shortfall, trustees need to keep all options open.

Reporter: Mary Meaux, 409-721-2429

Twitter: @MaryMeauxPANews